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Barr Announces Sweeping Crackdown on Sanctuary Cities for ‘Getting in the Way’ of Federal Immigration Law

Attorney General William Barr in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2020 (Leah Millis/Pool via Reuters)

Attorney general William Barr announced Monday that the Trump administration was implementing a “significant escalation” against so-called “sanctuary cities” for “unconstitutionally interfering” with federal efforts to enforce immigration law.

Barr, speaking at the National Sheriff’s Association 2020 Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., said the Justice Department would immediately move to file lawsuits against localities with sanctuary policies designed to actively obstruct federal immigration enforcement.

The attorney general began by clarifying that federal authorities are primarily concerned with local efforts to keep criminal aliens from being subject to immigration law.

“Let us state the reality upfront and as clearly as possible,” Barr opened. “When we are talking about sanctuary cities, we are talking about policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape. These policies are not about people who came to our country illegally but have otherwise been peaceful and productive members of society. Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes. This is neither lawful nor sensible.”

Orange County, California Sherrif Don Barnes drew the praise of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for releasing data last week showing that the state’s sanctuary law had resulted in the release of over 2,000 illegal immigrants with outstanding detainers over the last two years, with 411 of those later rearrested for additional charges.

Barr announced two federal complaints, filed against New Jersey and King County, Washington, for laws that actively infringe upon ICE’s ability to detain and deport criminal aliens.

He also said that the DOJ was supporting ICE in its efforts to get around sanctuary policies by implementing subpoenas to pursue cases, and that the DOJ is “meticulously reviewing” the actions of district attorneys who seek lesser sentences for criminal aliens to avoid triggering federal immigration consequences.

Barr cited examples of horrific cases in which a criminal alien with an outstanding detainer was released by local law enforcement, only to subsequently commit further crimes — including a New York case which caused the largest NYPD union to join ICE in criticizing mayor Bill de Blasio for his policies.

Last week, DHS announced that New Yorkers would be barred from participating in certain Trusted Traveler Programs over the state’s decision to allow illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses.

Barr explained that while the Constitution allowed for states to not assist federal authorities in pursuing immigration enforcement, active interference at the state level is illegal under the “Supremacy Clause” of Article IV.

“Enforcing a country’s immigration laws is an essential function of the national government,” Barr stated. “And no national government can enforce those laws properly if state and local governments are getting in the way.”

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