A.G. Schneiderman Releases New Joint Report With Attorneys General From CA, OR, RI, WA, and DC: “Setting The Record Straight On Local Involvement In Federal Civil Immigration Enforcement”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

May 17, 2017

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
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Twitter: @AGSchneiderman


Report Debunks Trump Administration Claims Against So-Called “Sanctuary” Jurisdictions

Report Brings Together Data, Legal Analysis, And Experience From Law Enforcement Across The U.S. To Set The Record Straight

In Response To Funding Threats And Inaccurate Statements By Trump Administration, AGs’ Report Details How Localities Are Acting Lawfully Through “Sanctuary” Policies – And How Those Policies Often Enhance Public Safety

Read The Full Report - “Setting the Record Straight on Local Involvement in Federal Civil Immigration Enforcement: The Facts and The Laws”

NEW YORK – Today, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a new joint report debunking the Trump Administration’s bogus legal and public safety claims against cities and towns that choose to limit their participation in the most aggressive forms of federal immigration enforcement. As the joint report details, such localities are lawfully permitted to decline most forms of participation. Further, as crime statistics and testimonials from law enforcement officials across the country illustrate, by adopting such policies, such jurisdictions can often enhance public safety in their communities. Both conclusions stand in stark contrast to the repeated and unsubstantiated claims made by the Trump Administration against these localities. 

 “Setting the Record Straight on Local Involvement in Federal Civil Immigration Enforcement: The Facts and The Laws”  – authored by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in consultation with the Attorneys General of California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia – responds to the Trump administration’s threats of funding cuts, as well as its inaccurate statements regarding the involvement of state and local law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”) in federal civil immigration enforcement.

“Today’s report is an unprecedented statement by top law enforcement officials across the country debunking the Trump administration’s false and misleading statements about these cities,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “Local police departments should not and cannot be forced to shatter the trust and credibility they’ve built with their communities just to advance President Trump’s radical deportation agenda. As today’s report illustrates, vulnerable communities have already become more reluctant to report crimes simply because of the Trump administration’s incessant and dangerous saber rattling. We cannot and must not allow that to stand. Many communities in New York have lawfully elected to limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement and I stand ready to defend their legal rights if President Trump follows through on his threats of retaliation.”

The report brings together extensive crime data, legal analysis, and testimony from law enforcement officials from around the country to address key issues, such as:

  1. Why LEAs that elect to limit their involvement in civil immigration enforcement are acting lawfully and – in fact – potentially shielding their jurisdictions from legal liability.
  2. How lawfully limiting LEA involvement in federal civil immigration functions often enhances public safety.
  3. Why the ICE detainer reports issued to date were both flawed and inaccurate. 

LEAs that Elect to Limit Their Involvement in Civil Immigration Enforcement Are Acting Lawfully – and Potentially Protecting Themselves from Legal Liability

As detailed in today’s report, LEAs that detain an individual pursuant only to an ICE detainer request (rather than a judicial warrant) risk violating the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as similar provisions in state constitutions – exposing those local governments to significant financial liability.  As a result, the Trump Administration's threats against sanctuary jurisdictions force these state and local LEAs into an impossible position: continue their sanctuary policies and risk the loss of federal funds, or comply with all ICE detainer requests and risk costly judgments in civil suits. Recently published comments from local LEAs on this point include:

Pinellas County (FL) Sheriff Bob Gaultieri, who said: “We’re not cooperating the way they want because the courts have told us that we cannot do what they are asking us to do. We have no jurisdiction.”

King County (WA) Sheriff John Urquhart, who said: “They’re [the federal government] trying to shame local jurisdictions for not doing what is illegal.”

Appropriately Limiting Voluntary LEA Involvement in Federal Civil Immigration Enforcement Can Often Promote Public Safety

The report also details how state and local governments and law enforcement that are closest to the communities they serve are best suited to assess the needs of those communities – including how best to use their limited resources to ensure public safety. As the report details, a recent study showed that counties that limited LEA participation in civil immigration enforcement had lower crime rates and stronger economies than comparable counties.

The Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, which brings together 60 sheriffs, police commissioners, and police chiefs from around the country, explained:

“Immigration enforcement on the state and local level diverts limited resources from public safety and undermines trust within immigrant communities. State and local law enforcement agencies face tight budgets and often do not have the capacity or resources to duplicate the federal government’s work in enforcing federal immigration laws. Rather than apprehending and removing immigrants who have no criminal background or affiliation and are merely seeking to work or reunite with family, it is more important for state and local law enforcement to focus limited resources and funding on true threats to public safety and security.”

As numerous law enforcement experts have noted, public safety depends upon building and preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. That’s why many experienced sheriffs and police officers have repeatedly highlighted the fact that LEA involvement with federal immigration enforcement drives immigrants behind closed doors – decreasing the likelihood that crimes will be reported, trials will go forward, and criminals will be prosecuted.

Santa Clara County (CA) Sheriff Laurie Smith cited in recently published remarks a specific example in which farmworkers came forward to provide information during a high-profile 2012 murder of a teenage girl: “Had they feared that my office would question their immigration status, or the status of their loved ones, it is very unlikely they would have come forward.”

In recent months, LEAs have reported a drop in victims and witnesses’ willingness to come forward. For example, Denver (CO) and El Paso County (TX) have reported that since President Trump’s immigration executive order was issued, a number of domestic violence victims have declined to pursue charges against their abusers out of fear of deportation.

The report also highlights a number of cases in which the cooperation of undocumented victims and witnesses were crucial to arrests and successful prosecutions.

Finally, the report highlights the ways in which so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions still take appropriate measures to ensure dangerous criminals are not returned to the community, through a variety of partnerships that exist between LEAs and the federal government.

The Federal Government’s Declined Detainer Outcome Reports and Accompanying Statements Were Inaccurate, Incomplete, and Misleading

In March 2017, ICE began issuing “Declined Detainer Outcome Reports” as part of the federal government’s efforts to pressure localities into complying with ICE detainer requests. ICE published three reports before they were temporarily suspended due to numerous inaccuracies reported by law enforcement across the United States.

Today’s report details the significant inaccuracies and incomplete and misleading information included in these ICE detainer reports – including multiple errors in the data itself.

Specifically, today’s report points out that fewer than 15 percent of detainers targeted immigrants who were convicted of serious crimes, undermining the federal administration’s argument that LEAs endanger public safety when they refuse to spend scare resources to detain each individual named in an ICE detainer request.

“The evidence is overwhelming – welcoming immigrants and encouraging cooperation with local law enforcement makes us safer,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This report exposes the Trump administration’s policies for what they really are, a brazen attempt to vilify immigrants. I want to thank AG Schneiderman and all the other Attorneys General from across the country for putting this report together.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said, “The City of Rochester is proud to be a Sanctuary City, a policy based on the notion that no individual should have to be afraid to contact the police or other City agencies out of fear of adverse immigration consequences.  We will focus our City resources on continuing Rochester’s legacy of equality and serving as a beacon of hope for those who believe in the American Dream. Our policy is to always fully comply with the requirements of Federal law while staying true to our commitment to this legacy.”

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said, “We've made enormous investments to build trust between our police department and the community.  The federal government's overreaching attempt to bully our local police into enforcing federal functions will undermine that trust - and make us all less safe.  I'm grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman and his office for their work to protect us from their bullying and keep the City of Ithaca a safe and comfortable community.”

“Attorney General Schneiderman’s report demonstrates what we’ve known for a long time - local law enforcement agencies should not be forced to participate in civil immigration enforcement,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “The City of Albany is committed to protecting all individuals, and our residents and visitors should not be afraid to contact the police if they are the victim or witness of a crime because they are concerned the police will inquire about their immigration status. I applaud the Attorney General for his continued leadership on this issue.”

“We are grateful for the incredible guidance the Attorney General has provided us as we work to find clarity and understanding on this complex issue,” said Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. “Especially in matters of policy and community safety, we must be explicitly clear on roles, responsibilities and expectations, both to our collaborating agencies and to the general public. I appreciate the Attorney General's steadfast leadership as it continues to give my administration the support we need to protect our city, residents and local law enforcement.”

“Syracuse is proud of its history as a community where all are welcomed and we take pride in being a Sanctuary City during these difficult times,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “Cities across the country appreciate the guidance and support offered by so many in recent months and we will use this as we continue serving the needs of our residents.”