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DOJ Warns 9 Communities - Including Milwaukee - to Follow Immigration Law

Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The U.S. Justice Dept. sent letters on Friday to nine jurisdictions, giving them until June 30 to prove they are cooperating with federal authorities in enforcing immigration law - or risk losing a big pot of federal funding. That grant money has been earmarked for law enforcement.

Other communities that received the letter include Chicago, New York and New Orleans.

Cooperation with federal immigration authorities can mean holding arrestees for an additional 48 hours, long enough to give immigration officers time to check the person's legal status and take them into federal custody and deport them, if they are in the U.S. illegally.

The Trump administration has threatened to punish so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to assist federal agents in enforcing immigration law.

According to the DOJ letter, the nine jurisdictions it contacted received federal grants in 2016. They are being required to provide documentation proving the community is in compliance with federal immigration requirements and is not restricting the flow of information about individuals.

The Milwaukee County Board has gone on record as opposing federal policies that call for the arrest and deportation of unauthorized immigrants and as supporting the protection of all people living here. However, the county has not declared itself a sanctuary community.

Sheriff David Clarke has applied for a federal program that would train his deputies how to work cooperatively with federal agents in cracking down on illegal immigration.

In response to the federal letter on Friday, County Executive Chris Abele released a statement insisting the county is following the terms of the federal grant.

"As with all federal grants we receive, we take very seriously compliance with all relevant laws. The Byrne grants are no exception. We are in compliance with the law and will share the required legal opinion by the date requested," Abele said.

Abele took issue with the assertion in the press release, which accompanied the federal letter, that the communities warned are collapsing under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime.

"Milwaukee County has its challenges but they are not caused by illegal immigration. My far greater concern is the proactive dissemination of misinformation, fear and intolerance," Abele wrote.

The City of Milwaukee Police Department has stated that it does not inquire about a person's immigration status when investigating crimes.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke responded to the issue via social media, on Monday, April 24, posting in part:

"The DOJ is not asking Milwaukee County to enforce laws on illegal immigration, only to assist and cooperate. That is not a request, it is an obligation under law. I will work with the US DOJ to hold Abele and the County Board’s feet to the fire on this issue. I am demanding that they demonstrate their compliance by retracting the County Board resolution File No. 16-738, which designated Milwaukee County as a “safe place,” opposes the use of Section 287g, and refuses to honor detainer requests unless accompanied by a federal judge’s court order or warrant."

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