Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed Tuesday that her department has spoken to federal prosecutors about the possibility of leveling criminal charges against elected officials of cities that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.
Nielsen revealed that a request has been submitted to the Justice Department for their review, according to The Daily Caller.
“The Department of Justice is reviewing what avenues might be available,” Nielsen said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“The context of this is of course not only putting my ICE officers at risk but also finding an efficient and effective way to enforce our immigration laws.”
Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris of California — a state that is largely viewed as an illegal immigrant safe haven after legislation that protects them from federal prosecutors went into effect this year — continued probing the secretary about the department’s plans to go after sanctuary city leaders.
Nielsen said she is not aware of any specific cases where the Homeland Department will criminally charge elected officials, but that her department was simply looking into the possibility.
Harris’ line of questions were in response to comments previously made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan, who said during an interview earlier this month that the DOJ had been asked to “look into criminal charges for elected officials with sanctuary policies as they are harboring illegal aliens.”
At that time, Homam was responding to California’s new law that gives added protections to illegal immigrants across the entire state and blocks federal immigration authorities from doing their job.
The move to criminally charge elected officials of sanctuary cities would be an escalation of already heated tensions between immigration doves and the Trump administration.
The White House is in an ongoing courtroom battle to defund sanctuary cities, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions actively trying to withhold criminal justice from localities that refuse to work with federal immigration agents.
The escalation is also due to high-profile crimes committed by immigrants residing in the U.S. — crimes that immigration hardliners argue would never have happened if sanctuary policies were not in place.
Some have even said sanctuary leaders should be held responsible for heinous crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
“Politicians don’t get to pick and choose what laws to comply with,” Rep. Todd Rokita told Fox News last month. “Americans are dying because politicians sworn to uphold the law refuse to do so.”
Rokita, a Republican congressman from Indiana who is running for U.S. Senate this year, introduced legislation that threatens elected leaders in sanctuary cities with prison time and fines.
Rokita’s bill comes in the aftermath of the Kate Steinle verdict, in which an illegal immigrant, who had already been deported to Mexico five times, was acquitted for the 2015 killing of Steinle in San Francisco, a sanctuary city.
As Republicans and Democrats continue with deliberations on a comprehensive immigration deal, President Donald Trump has drawn a hard line, demanding funding for a wall on the U.S. southern border and a change in key immigration policies in exchange for legislative passage of DACA, a program that protects young immigrants from deportation.
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