A police chief has expressed concern about the politicization of violent crime after the Trump administration sent letters to so-called “sanctuary cities” for immigrants, suggesting law enforcement agencies might not get funding unless they co-operated with the federal government’s efforts to deport people.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it was assessing the four cities’ “commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration”.
The letters were sent to the police chiefs of Baltimore, Stockton, San Bernardino and Albuquerque, marking the latest salvo in Donald Trump’s attempted crackdown on jurisdictions that limit how much local police and sheriff officials comply with federal immigration agents.
Immigrant activists and their political allies have pushed to curtail such collaboration. Resistance can take the form of limiting access to jails or refusing to honor federal requests to continue detaining immigrants after their release dates. California law prohibits complying with such requests if immigrants were being detained for low-level or nonviolent offenses.
After notifying the police chiefs that their cities were suffering excessive levels of violence, which qualifies them to receive federal assistance under the Public Safety Partnership (PSP), Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson posed a series of questions about whether local jurisdictions allow federal immigration agents to enter jails to interview immigrants, notify federal officials when detained immigrants will be released and honor requests to hold onto them longer.
“The Department is reviewing your jurisdiction’s commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration,” Mr. Hanson wrote.
Representatives of police departments quickly pointed out a problem: it is typically not their responsibility to manage jails. Compounding the confusion, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said he had only learned about the request through the media. In an emailed statement, Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis seemed caught off guard to learn federal funds could be tied to immigration cooperation.
“When the original PSP jurisdictions were selected by DOJ, it was done so without a formal selection process,” Mr. Davis wrote. “We remain unaware of any formal selection process, but are now aware that federal immigration enforcement criteria appears to be a primary consideration.
“Baltimore is a…