After a bruising campaign promising to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities” who don’t cooperate with federal deportation efforts, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has modified – and curtailed – his threats.
In a newly released memo, the Department of Justice acknowledged that it can only target jurisdictions that “specifically don’t comply with a law to share information with the federal government for immigration purposes.”
While prior threats had promised to cut off federal funding for all sanctuary cities, many legal experts have pointed out that such sweeping action is not only tenuous, but potentially unconstitutional. As written, the law does not require sanctuary jurisdictions to proactively disclose immigration information or even detain immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The fact that many of these sanctuary jurisdictions do comply with federal requests to share information – when requested – renders this executive order largely ineffective.
This is not the first hurdle on which Trump’s “anti-sanctuary city” executive order has stumbled. In April, a federal judge blocked the executive order on the basis of its unconstitutionality.
Still, Sessions has indicated that he will continue to try and force jurisdictions to bend to his will in other ways, such as allocating future grants on the basis of proactive compliance with federal deportation efforts.
James Williams, county counsel for Santa Clara County in California, whose legal team was responsible for fighting the executive order last month, said:
“This memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions does nothing to address the constitutional infirmities at the heart of this Executive Order. To the contrary, it shows that the Department of Justice continues to scramble to find a way to save an Executive Order that is unconstitutional on its face and cannot be lawfully implemented.”
It is especially disheartening to see, of all people, an Attorney General with such disdain for the US Constitution. Yet like Trump, Sessions is learning that no one man is greater than our system of checks and balances. Perhaps their latest in a string of failed efforts will finally force this administration to realize that.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.