One of Donald Trump’s biggest white whales is “sanctuaries,” cities and states that have policies against asking people their immigration status, or responding to requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep people locked up.
The administration was smacked down in federal court last April for trying to strip grants from sanctuary cities, but now Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is considering criminal charges against politicians in these cities.
But Trump’s real bulldog on the issue is Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In joining the boycott, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti called the Trump administration tactics, “the politics of distraction and destruction.”
And Wednesday evening, California’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, hit back on Twitter.
“Bring it,” he wrote. “Your racist political stunts are getting old and will not work on us.”
The law Sessions is citing to justify his anti-sanctuary crusade is 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which prohibits states and cities from enacting policies that prohibit the sharing of immigration data with the Department of Homeland Security.
But as the Immigrant Legal Resource Center points out, nothing in that law mandates states and cities collect that information, which is what sanctuary policies prohibit.
While conservatives and Fox News hosts love to imply that sanctuary cities, by definition, harbor fugitives and forbid federal officers from entering, that is not how it works. It is nothing more than a limit on how local police can question or detain suspects.
It should be noted that, whereas Sessions’ motivation for stamping out sanctuaries is grounded in racist myths about a wave of immigrant crime, cities and states have a multitude of reasons for enacting such policies even aside from immigrant rights.
For one thing, holding someone for ICE is expensive and opens up jurisdictions to lawsuits. For another, studies show when local police don’t ask people for immigration papers, it improves trust in the police and makes people more likely to report crimes.
As Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) noted, “Local police say acting as Federal immigration officers jeopardizes public safety.”
Sessions loves to talk up the rule of law. But he is so blinded by his agenda against racial and ethnic minorities that he ignores what the law actually says, and Newsom is all too happy to set him straight on the facts.