The Department of Justice on Friday sent a letter to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf asking for proof the city is complying with a key immigration statute and warning failure to do so could put the city’s future federal grants at risk.
DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance Director John Adler’s letter asks Oakland’s legal counsel to draft an opinion outlining how city policies fall in line with 8 USC 1373, a section of federal law prohibiting jurisdictions from enacting laws restricting communication between local officials and federal immigration authorities.
DOJ has reason to believe some of Oakland’s municipal guidelines violate Section 1373, according to the letter.
It refers specifically to an Oakland Police Department policy: “Officers shall not share non-public information about an individual’s address, upcoming court date, or release date with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection]. Officers shall respond to an ICE or CBP request for non-public information only when a judicial warrant accompanies the request.”
That rule appears to restrict “the sending of information regarding immigration status,” a violation of Section 1373, according to the DOJ.
Oakland has until May 14 to respond with an opinion showing otherwise.
Among California’s large cities, Oakland has been under particular scrutiny from President Donald Trump’s administration since February, when Schaaf tweeted out a warning of an impeding immigration sweep in the San Francisco Bay area. Trump denounced Schaaf for tipping off potential targets of the operation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ department would look at possible obstruction of justice charges against the mayor, the attorney general said.
Under Sessions, the DOJ has tried to pressure sanctuary cities by threatening to withhold certain federal funds, as part of the Trump administration’s broader crackdown on illegal immigration.
The department revised the eligibility guidelines in 2017 for Byrne criminal justice grants, requiring applicants to honor federal immigration detention requests, give immigration agents unfettered access to local jails and comply with Section 1373.
A federal judge blocked the first two rules in response to a lawsuit from the city of Chicago but allowed the Section 1373 requirement to stand.
Friday’s letter sent to Schaaf references a Byrne grant awarded in 2016 to Alameda County, which covers Oakland. The DOJ could seek the return of those funds and block future grants if Oakland fails to show compliance with Section 1373, the department said.
“The Justice Department will not tolerate this intentional effort to undermine public safety and the rule of law, and I continue to remind all jurisdictions to reconsider policies that put their residents in harm’s way,” Sessions said in a statement.
Also Friday, DOJ sent letters to Seattle and Vermont, asking for further assurances their immigration policies are in line with Section 1373.
Conversely, the department notified Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky, there is no evidence either city is at odds with the law.
A version of this article previously appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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