DOJ to Jackson: Review ‘Sanctuary’ Policy

The U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t know the city of Jackson has a new mayor. In a letter addressed to Mayor Tony Yarber but dated Nov. 15, 2017, Alan Hanson, acting assistant attorney general, asked the city of Jackson to review its “sanctuary city” ordinance. Jackson has an ordinance that prohibits police officers in the city from asking about a person’s immigration status unless it is “relevant to the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense, or when processing an arrested person.”

The Department of Justice sent the city of Jackson a letter of warning about the city’s “sanctuary” policy.

The ordinance, often referred to as a “sanctuary policy,” has been on the books since in 2010. This year, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law to make sanctuary cities illegal in the state, and following President Donald Trump’s lead, Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law. 

The Department of Justice sent the letter to 28 other jurisdictions, including states, cities and counties around the country that “may have” sanctuary policies, that violate a federal statute that promotes information sharing related to immigration enforcement.

“Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the press release. “I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents. We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with Section 1373, but also to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process criminal aliens.”

The city has until Dec. 8, 2017, to submit a response to this letter that “addresses whether Jackson has laws, policies, or practices that violate section 1373.”

The letter also mentions federal funding that goes to the city through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.

“… Please address whether you would comply with section 1373 throughout the award period, should you receive an FY 2017 Byrne JAG grant award. To the extent Jackson laws or policies contain so called ‘savings clauses,’ please explain in your submission the way these savings clauses are interpreted and applied, and whether these interpretations are communicated to Jackson officers or employees,” Hanson writes.

“The Department has not made a final determination regarding Jackson’s compliance with section 1373. This letter does not constitute final agency action and nothing in this letter creates any right or benefit enforceable at law against the United States.”