News Room

Sanctuary Cities Must Step Up The Fight for Dreamers

Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck
September 8, 2017

As young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” brace for the fallout following the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, there’s a renewed sense of urgency for so-called sanctuary cities to step up the fight to protect law abiding people from deportation.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced the end of the Obama administration policy, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to stop processing any new applications for the program. It’s now up to Congress to act over the next six months to create a roadmap for Dreamers who are currently able to work, study and live in the U.S without fearing deportation.

This controversial decision only amplifies the legal battle against President Trump’s policies for sanctuary cities. Opponents fought Trump’s travel ban tirelessly all the way to the Supreme Court, and now sanctuary cities are suing over the administration’s threat to deny funding if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Late last month, the city of Los Angeles joined the state of California, and the city of San Francisco in efforts to sue the Justice Department for threatening to withhold funding from sanctuary cities. California and San Francisco officials stated that they are suing the Trump administration, alleging that federal threats to withhold funding from these cities is unconstitutional and violates the rights of residents.

In its lawsuit, San Francisco is seeking to strike down the rules U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced last month for Justice Department funds that have long been dispersed to local law enforcement agencies to strengthen efforts to fight violent and gang crime. Sessions claims that sanctuary policies fuel crime and make communities less safe. His push against such communities is part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to crack down on immigration. Going forward, police agencies that want a piece of the funding would have to first demonstrate that they are willing to help immigration officials identify and detain people in local jails who are suspected of being in the country illegally.

The Justice Department awards the grant money to states and cities annually. The state of California has received more than $28 million in law enforcement grants this year from the federal government, which is money that could be potentially withheld in the future. In the past, the amount cities receive has been calculated based on population and crime statistics. In each of the last 20 years, Los Angeles has received more than $1 million, including $1.8 million for the 2016 fiscal year.

Department spokesman Devin O’Malley has stated that there has been an increase in crime rates in Los Angeles in recent years, and found it surprising that the city of LA would challenge policies that are implemented in order to keep residents safe. He states that reversing sanctuary city policies is more than just enforcing immigration law and capturing people who are living here illegally, but it is also to establish law and order within the population and punish those that need to be punished.

In an earlier challenge to the president’s executive order on immigration, San Francisco and the Santa Clara County won a nationwide injunction that blocked the administration from withholding all sources of federal funding, and not just law enforcement grants controlled by the Justice Department to cities it deemed to be sanctuaries. Seattle is another example of a city that followed with similar lawsuits. San Francisco has a policy prohibiting city officials from even responding to an ICE request for advance notification of an inmate’s release, but no policy had existed in Los Angeles. There are concerns that such policy would force the LAPD to prolong the time inmates would otherwise remain behind bars, which several courts have ruled unconstitutional.

As the nearly 800,000 Dreamers (as many as 242,000 in California alone) grapple with what their future holds, local and state officials must continue to pledge their support for these young people and act to protect them.

Kabateck LLP fights tirelessly to obtain justice for clients but our work doesn’t stop there. Many of the cases we successfully try in court or negotiate in mediation can become a catalyst for change in the community or at the state level. Our firm is proud to work closely with lawmakers as they draft and introduce legislation that helps promote consumer protections and enforce consumer rights.