EXCLUSIVE: Attorney General Bill Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf are warning state supreme courts in Washington and Oregon that moves to stop federal immigration enforcement from making arrests in and around courthouses will create an “unacceptable risk” by letting illegal immigrants convicted of violent crimes loose in communities.
“Regardless of how one views our immigration laws, we should all agree that public safety should be of paramount concern,” says the letter from Barr and Wolf to chief justices in those states, obtained by Fox News. “Court rules that would purport to further restrict the lawful operations of federal law enforcement officials only serve to exacerbate sanctuary laws and policies that continue to place our communities at unacceptable risk.”
The letter comes after Oregon’s Supreme Court restricted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from making arrests of illegal immigrants in and around courthouses without a judicial warrant. Washington is reportedly considering adopting similar rules.
The Trump administration as a whole has been aggressively pushing back against “sanctuary city” policies that bar state and local cooperation with detainers issued by federal immigration authorities. Those detainers are requests that ICE be notified when an illegal immigrant is due to be released from custody so they can be deported.
While advocates of those sanctuary policies say that they encourage cooperation of immigrant communities with law enforcement, opponents note the countless number of criminals who have been released onto the streets, with many going on to re-offend.
“These states laws and policies force state and local officers to release criminal aliens into communities in your States, endangering the public and forcing it to bear the cost of any additional criminal acts they may proceed to commit,” Barr and Wolf said. “These policies have resulted in the release of criminal aliens with convictions for serious and violent offenses, such as domestic violence assaults, firearms offenses, drug trafficking offenses, and violation of protection orders.”
With the letter, the administration includes examples in Oregon and Washington of convicted criminals who have been released, with some going on to re-offend. One of those cited is the case of an illegal immigrant from Honduras with prior criminal convictions, for whom ICE lodged a detainer in 2017 – but he was released from a Washington state jail. In January 2018, the man was arrested again and booked for the second-degree murder and the dismemberment of his cousin.
“Put simply, the policies you are considering endanger the public and hamper law enforcement by interfering with that lawful process,” the letter says.
The letter, coming from two top department chiefs, is the latest sign of the administration ramping up its efforts against sanctuary cities. Acting ICE Director Matt Albence has held a series of press conferences highlighting the dangers of sanctuary policies, while the department is releasing lists of those with serious arrests who could one day be released into communities.
That push has seen signs of success already.
Montgomery County, Md., recently rolled back some of its policies amid intense criticism from administration officials, after a series of released illegal immigrants were later arrested on suspicion of sex offenses.
Meanwhile, voters in Tucson, Ariz., this month voted against a measure to make the city an official sanctuary city and impose even more measures on officers trying to enforce federal immigration law.