Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley is leading an effort to make sure the Obama administration is not turning a blind eye to local governments that resist in cooperating with federal immigration authorities and blatantly ignore the immigration status of individuals with whom they come into contact.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Grassley, along with Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, wrote that they were specifically concerned about the department's handling of Cook County, Ill. The senators wrote that in a meeting with Gary Mead, the Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "Senate Judiciary Committee minority staff were told that Cook County presents a major problem for immigration enforcement efforts. In fact, Mr. Mead said that Cook County is the most egregious example of sanctuary city policies and that this situation presents "an accident waiting to happen.'"
"The Secretary needs to step up and take control of this situation before Cook County's ordinance is copied by other local governments," Grassley said. "These anti-enforcement policies are allowing criminals to walk free and putting the safety of the public at risk."
In addition, recent press reports indicate that much to the chagrin of local Border Patrol agents, the U.S. Border Patrol ended transportation checks on random busses, trains and airports. According to agents, the searches were an effective tool for deterring illegal immigration.
"This all adds up to an administration that has little concern with the rule of law. Sanctuary cities undermine the ability of law enforcement personnel to enforce the laws on the books, and until the administration shows a desire to put an end to the practice, local governments will continue to thumb their nose at law enforcement," Grassley said.
Here is a copy of the text of the letter. A signed version of the letter can be found here.
November 2, 2011
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
We write to express serious concerns about the Administration's lack of attention to local law enforcement jurisdictions that enact policies that undermine federal immigration law. Specifically, we are very concerned with policies enacted by Cook County, Illinois, and how your department is responding to them.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 19, you were asked if you had communicated with Cook County officials about a recently passed ordinance that prohibits federal government officials from having access to undocumented persons detained by the county. This ordinance aims to free suspected undocumented individuals jailed by the county on misdemeanor cases, in spite of requests from federal law enforcement to hold them for possible deportation. During the hearing, you indicated that you had not participated in any discussions with Cook County. You also indicated you had not had any discussions with the Justice Department about how they will handle local jurisdictions, such as Cook County, that harbor undocumented individuals.
When briefed by Gary Mead, Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Senate Judiciary Committee minority staff were told that Cook County presents a major problem for immigration enforcement efforts. In fact, Mr. Mead said that Cook County is the most egregious example of sanctuary city policies and that this situation presents "an accident waiting to happen." Mr. Mead also reported that the Department is relying on the ICE District Director to resolve the situation, although ICE Assistant Secretary Morton has taken some direct steps to address the matter.
We would like to know what specific steps have been and will be taken by your Department to compel Cook County to reverse its policy of ignoring immigration detainers. In addition, we would request an overview of meetings held between federal officials and Cook County, including any emails or other documentation that exist, to understand how the federal government has been or is attempting to rectify the situation.
More importantly, we urge you, as Secretary, to take a direct role in this matter. Cook County's ordinance is a serious threat to the public's safety that requires your immediate and personal attention. This is too important of an issue to go unresolved, and as a matter of national security, we urge you to take control of the situation so that detainers are not ignored and undocumented individuals are properly detained and put in deportation proceedings.
Finally, we encourage you and your colleagues in the Administration to seriously consider taking action against local or state jurisdictions that enact policies that purposely undermine the law or encourage their officers not to cooperate with the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement. Given the current fiscal crisis facing the federal government, serious consideration should be given to withholding federal grant dollars to local or state jurisdictions that fail to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement. The Administration has a responsibility to ensure that the homeland is protected, and it must not turn a blind eye to such entities that proactively defy the immigration laws we have on the books.
Thank you and we look forward to your timely response.