Feds, states target Southern 'Sanctuary Cities,' Leaving Local Officials in a Bind

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 The Trump administration has continued its crackdown on immigration this week, most recently taking aim at so-called “sanctuary cities.” In January, President Donald Trump issued an executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from these cities which, to varying degrees, limit their entanglement in federal immigration enforcement to promote local public safety and community trust.

The administration has followed up on Trump’s directive, with the Department of Homeland Security recently releasing a list of jurisdictions it said didn’t comply with the agency’s requests to detain undocumented immigrants in local custody beyond their scheduled release — a tactic some have criticized for flaming unfounded notions that immigrants are criminals or that they increase crime.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-issued the administration’s threat of pulling federal funding.

“The Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with [U.S. Code 1373] as a condition of receiving those awards,” Session said, referring to a federal law that prohibits restricting communication between local and federal agencies regarding information about immigration status.

Sessions added, “The Department of Justice will take all lawful steps to claw back any funds awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates 1373.”

In the South and conservative states across the country, these attacks on sanctuary communities are also coming at the state level, leaving immigrant-friendly local elected officials in the region walking a tightrope, trying to support immigrants without becoming a target of federal or state retribution.

Nationwide, at least 18 states considered policies prohibiting local measures to limit federal immigration enforcement in 2016, and 29 are considering them in 2017. According to a Facing South analysis of statewide sanctuary city bans in the South, six states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — currently have such laws on the books. Four others — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Texas — are considering anti-sanctuary city legislation. North Carolina and Tennessee are also considering legislation to make their existing laws stricter, while Georgia added new requirements to its law in 2016.

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Six Southern states have banned "sanctuary city" policies with four others considering similar legislation, creating a difficult environment for local elected officials navigating immigration policy.



Of the six states with current sanctuary city prohibitions, four passed their laws prior to sanctuary cities becoming a national issue in 2015, during a period in which laws styled after Arizona’s notorious “Show me your papers” SB 1070 swept the region. Georgia and Tennessee passed their bans in 2009. Alabama’s and South Carolina’s are part of their SB 1070 copycat laws passed in 2011.


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