Justice Department Warns City Of Lawrence: Sanctuary City Status Will Cost You

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/01/24/justice-department-warns-city-of-lawrence-sanctuary-city-status-will-cost-you/

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a series of letters to almost two dozen American so-called “sanctuary cities” — including Lawrence, Massachusetts — demanding that the municipalities fork over law enforcement documents related to illegal immigration policies — or risk being barred from pursuing public safety grants.

The letter sent to Lawrence Police Chief Roy P. Vasque was apparently issued as a response to a letter Vasque sent in November in which he outlined his department’s approach to working with federal immigration authorities, specifically regarding the sharing of arrestee information.

According to a DOJ press release, federal investigators are “demanding the production of documents that could show whether each jurisdiction is unlawfully restricting information sharing by its law enforcement officers with federal immigration authorities.”

The letter issued to Vasque states in part that DOJ officials “remain concerned that your jurisdiction’s laws, policies, or practices” may violate federal laws related to information-sharing, “or, at a minimum, that they may be interpreted or applied in a manner inconsistent” with the law.

The DOJ’s letter cites a 2016 grant awarded to the city through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program in which Lawrence city officials, including Vasque, apparently “agreed to cooperate with the Bureau of Justice Assistance on all grant monitoring requests.”

The Justice Assistance Grant program, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance website, bills itself as “the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions.” According to a 2017 filing, the Lawrence Police Department is seeking to use future Byrne JAG funding to pay for the citywide installation of surveillance cameras.

Records show that in 2016, Lawrence was awarded a $72,000 Byrne JAG grant to upgrade in-cruiser police radios.

It remains unclear why the Justice Department did not issue letters to other self-identified Massachusetts sanctuary cities that were awarded grants in 2016. For example, the first city to officially recognize itself with sanctuary status for illegal aliens — Somerville — landed a $20,000 grant in 2016.

As for Lawrence, the Justice Department claims that the city “agreed to provide the requested documents” and was made aware that “failure to cooperate with BJA’s grant-monitoring activities may result in sanctions affecting the recipient’s DOJ awards.”

Potential penalties listed in the letter included a “referral to the Office of the Inspector General for audit review; designation of the recipient as a DOJ High Risk grantee; or termination of the award.”

The DOJ, in Wednesday’s letter to Vasque, requested the following under threat of subpoena:

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the letters:

“The White House has been very clear that we don’t support sanctuary cities,” she told reporters. “We support enforcing the law and following the law, and that is the Department of Justice’s job, to do exactly that. If mayors have a problem with that, they should talk to Congress — the people that pass the laws — Department of Justice enforces them, and as long as that is the law, the Department of Justice will enforce it.”

Asked how the White House’s approach to enforcement would affect its relationship with various sanctuary cities, Huckabee Sanders said, “look, we would love to be able to work with these mayors, particularly on issues like infrastructure and other things, but we cannot allow people to pick and choose what laws they want to follow.

“If we have a country with no laws then nothing matters, so we cannot allow a few individual people to decide that they don’t want to follow the rules.”

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, who initially voiced his opposition to sanctuary city status in 2015 when city councilors were on the verge of passing the city’s so-called Trust Act, as of Wednesday evening has yet to comment on the DOJ letters. 

The complete list of jurisdictions being warned includes:

  • Chicago, Illinois;
  • Cook County, Illinois;
  • New York City, New York;
  • State of California;
  • Albany, New York;
  • Berkeley, California;
  • Bernalillo County, New Mexico;
  • Burlington, Vermont;
  • City and County of Denver, Colorado;
  • Fremont, California;
  • Jackson, Mississippi;
  • King County, Washington;
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts;
  • City of Los Angeles, California;
  • Louisville Metro, Kentucky;
  • Monterey County, California;
  • Sacramento County, California;
  • City and County of San Francisco, California;
  • Sonoma County, California;
  • Watsonville, California;
  • West Palm Beach, Florida;
  • State of Illinois; and
  • State of Oregon.