Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday local jurisdictions seeking U.S. Department of Justice grants must first demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities, but the threat might not apply to San Diego and other municipalities in the region.

Sessions said jurisdictions must prove they are in compliance with Section 1373 of U.S. Code Title 8, which requires notification of federal officials about the immigration status of people in local custody. The policy was issued under the Obama administration in 2016, but was not enforced.

“The American people know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said.

His comments were in line with an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in January that threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Sessions noted that the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs and Community Oriented Policing Services expect to issue about $4.1 billion in grants during the current fiscal year.

While there is no specific definition of a sanctuary city or jurisdiction, it often refers to a city or county that refuses to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that is has an immigrant in the country illegally in its custody. Federal law requires the notification, even if the person has not been convicted of a crime, but many jurisdictions ignore the law.

No cities in San Diego County are officially sanctuary cities, though San Diego tends to appear on Internet lists of such localities.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, in Mexico City on a Chamber of Commerce sponsored trip designed to improve cross-border ties, issued a statement that said: “San Diego’s longstanding policies under Republican and Democratic administrations have made us one of the safest big cities in America.

The San Diego Police Department works to protect all members of the community, regardless of their immigration status because that’s how we keep all of our neighborhoods safe,” Faulconer said. “However, if someone commits a crime, they will be held accountable whether or not they are a citizen and we will continue to cooperate with federal authorities. San Diego is not a sanctuary city and never has been.”

Nearly two weeks ago, the mayor issued a memo to the City Council reiterating policies regarding immigrants and local law enforcement.

Faulconer said in the memo that the SDPD’s primary focus has always been on “crime prevention and the enforcement of local laws.” SDPD officers don’t initiate contact for the sole purpose of checking someone’s immigration status, or ask the immigration status of crime victims or witnesses, he said.

San Diego will not take part in any program in which local law enforcement can be deputized to perform immigration duties, according to the mayor.

The notification of federal authorities on the immigration status of inmates is conducted by county jails, he said.

–City News Service