PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said New Orleans "is not and has never been a sanctuary city" following a memo
from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that clarifies President Donald Trump's executive order to crack down on so-called "sanctuary" policies prohibiting local cops from working with federal immigration authorities. Sessions' definition of "sanctuary" policies appears to keep New Orleans out of federal scrutiny, for now.
"It appears that the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security heard the call from mayors and police chiefs — that our local police should be focused on fighting violent crime and building trust with the communities they serve,” Landrieu said in a statement.
Landrieu has repeatedly ensured New Orleans' compliance with the feds in regards to people living in the country illegally — the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), under a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, does not ask
about an individual's immigration status, but the department is not explicitly prohibited from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Landrieu sent a letter
to Sessions last month detailing NOPD's policies and urging the feds to "stay focused on the real problem and stop scapegoating the immigrant communities and cities."
Trump's order threatened to pull federal funding from municipalities that are determined to be noncompliant with federal immigration laws. According to Sessions, the term "sanctuary jurisdiction" will only refer to jurisdictions that "willfully refuse" to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373, a statute that prevents state and local governments from enacting law or policies that limit cooperation with the feds. But Sessions says that "narrow" definition won't necessarily mean municipalities are off the hook from additional review.
"Nothing in the Executive Order limits the Department's ability to point out ways that state and local jurisdictions are undermining our lawful system of immigration or to take enforcement action where state or local practices violate federal laws, regulations, or grant conditions," the memo says.
Meanwhile, Trump's recently unveiled budget calls for a dramatic increase in border protection and immigration enforcement efforts, including 500 new border patrol agents, 1,000 new ICE officers, $1.5 billion for deportations and detainers, and an increase of more than $80 million to expand federal detention centers.
"I was hopeful that this new guidance would put to rest the divisive rhetoric and threats to cut funding to cities, such as New Orleans, that are fully compliant with federal law," Landrieu said. "Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s [budget] includes a proposal that would vastly expand the federal government’s power to conscript state and local police officers into the enforcement of civil immigration laws. State and local police are the tip of the spear in the fight to keep our streets safe. Rather than attacking cities and law enforcement, and demonizing immigrants, now is the time for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and invest in police and other resources mayors need to keep our streets safe.”
Landrieu and NOPD Chief Michael Harrison have repeatedly insisted the city's immigration policies allow immigrant communities to report crimes without fear of arrest. Landrieu also has pushed
against Trump's potential plans to deputize local cops to enforce immigration laws; Landrieu said he “will not not move officers off the street to join President Trump’s deportation force."