Author Topic: ACLU to Grassley: Nix immigration bill  (Read 525 times)

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ACLU to Grassley: Nix immigration bill
« on: September 29, 2015, 04:04:34 pm »

ACLU to Grassley: Nix immigration bill

    Organization says senator's legislation would jeopardize funding for 26 Iowa counties that do not honor Homeland Security requests to detain inmates without warrants

    BY BEN JACOBSON Posted: Monday, September 28, 2015 12:00 am

    Pending federal legislation targeted at immigrant-friendly "sanctuary cities" could cost Dubuque County funding, according to a state watchdog agency.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa this month sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asking him to withdraw a proposed amendment to the bill, dubbed the "Stop Sanctuary Cities Act."

    According to the ACLU, Grassley's amendment would jeopardize funding for some programs in 26 Iowa counties, including Dubuque County, in which law enforcement agencies have indicated they will not honor Department of Homeland Security requests to detain inmates without warrants.

    "What they're doing is something that's in their best interests," said Erica Johnson, ACLU-IA's advocacy director. "Other counties, other sheriff's departments, other jails who have held people on these (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainer requests ... have been sued. "

    The bill was filed as a "knee-jerk response" to a woman being shot and killed last month in San Francisco, allegedly by an immigrant who was detained and released by police, according to the ACLU. The bill was referred to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, but senators ultimately held the bill and have not yet taken action.

    In an email to TH Media, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said the bill still is being worked on.

    "It's not clear what will or won't be used to help jurisdictions ensure that undocumented criminals aren't being allowed to stay in the country," she wrote. "Withholding certain levels of funding of several programs is certainly under consideration and is a concept that was in the underlying bill as well as in the bill that Senator Grassley introduced on July 21."

    In an Aug. 11 letter sent to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Grassley demanded more information about the sexual assault and killing of a woman in Santa Maria, Calif., in July. In that case, one of the suspected killers, Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez, had been released from jail one year earlier after the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office declined to honor a detainer request.

    "Clearly there has been a total breakdown in cooperation between local and federal law enforcement that allowed this alleged killer to be released and, despite his lengthy and violent criminal record, never deported," Grassley wrote.

    Contacted by TH Media on Thursday, Dubuque County Sheriff Don Vrotsos said he hadn't heard of the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act.

    He said Dubuque County authorities sometimes receive requests from ICE and DHS to detain individuals arrested for local crimes longer than the terms for which they are sentenced. County officials last year determined that before they could honor those requests, they would have to receive a warrant.

    "We sought an opinion from our county attorney," Vrotsos said. "He gave us an opinion that unless DHS/ICE gives us a warrant of probable cause to hold the individual, we are not to do that. If we do, that would open us up for a large civil liability issue."

    Levine said the legislation under consideration also would include liability protections for law enforcement agencies that fear being sued for complying with federal detainer requests.

    "The bottom line is that thousands of criminal aliens are being released in local communities, and jurisdictions that cooperate and share information with feds won't be affected by any possible funding cuts," she wrote.

    According to the ACLU, Grassley's amendment could punish Dubuque County for its stance on the issue by denying Community Development Block Grant funds and support for the Community-Oriented Policing Services and State Criminal Alien Assistance programs.

    It's unclear how much funding the county could lose. Neither the sheriff's department nor the Dubuque Police Department utilize the COPS or SCAAP programs.

    "Regardless, we will monitor the proposed legislation for any local impact," Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing wrote in an email to TH Media.