As Trump gets tough on immigration, some officials fight what they say are erroneous 'sanctuary' designations

Officials in several U.S. communities labeled “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants say the feds have it wrong, and they fear losing funding under a new directive from President Trump.

Saratoga, N.Y., is on one widely circulated list, and wants off, said Undersheriff Richard Castle. It didn't make much difference until Trump said he would punish cities that limit or virtually prohibit local law enforcement from working proactively with immigration agents.

“We have no idea how we got on this list,” Castle told Fox News. “We notify [immigration officials] all along the way when we arrest someone, and we contact [immigration officials] to verify their status. We are willing to share all our records with immigration [agents], and if we have a suspected violation we will notify them.”

The list of sanctuary communities that has gotten the most attention since Trump became president was compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a Washington, D.C.-based organization that favors strict immigration policies.

Jessica Vaughan, a CIS analyst and its point person on sanctuary communities, put the list together, culling information from Homeland Security, as well as other sources such as media accounts and information gleaned directly from interviews of local government administrators.

Vaughan said she has a thorough method for putting a locality on the list.

“I look at whether they have a policy that blocks ICE access to jails,” Vaughan said. “Do they have a policy that blocks officers from communicating with ICE? I may ask them to give me a statement” to corroborate what they assert.

Then she checks the information with ICE, she said.

Vaughan said she decided to take Saratoga County off after she spoke with officials there about their objection to being on the list and looking into their practices.

Some counties end up on the list, apparently, because they require – often because of state rules – that ICE provide an administrative or judicial warrant along with a formal request that an illegal immigrant who has been arrested be held in detention until agents can arrive and begin deportation proceedings.

Both Saratoga and Bradford County, Pa., officials believe that was seen by groups compiling lists as an attempt by their agencies to put up roadblocks to ICE efforts to pick up an immigrant.

Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said the community he represents had to start requiring a court order from ICE to hold a detained immigrant beyond a release date because of concerns over lawsuits.

“I’m appalled that we’re tagged as a sanctuary, we’re completely the opposite of that,” McLinko told Fox News. “We are a law and order county.

"It makes us very mad that we got grouped with sanctuary counties, just because some organization comes out with a list," he added.

Vaughan added that she does not expect that the Trump administration will go by CIS’s list and “start tearing up [federal funding] checks.”

In Ocean County, N.J., officials say they wrongly ended up on some lists of sanctuary communities.

“Absolutely, positively not,” a county public information officer, Richard Petersen, told Fox News. “We are not a sanctuary county. Frankly, we don’t know why that’s happened.”

A Trump executive order on immigration said that his administration would identify places that appear to have sanctuary policies that prohibit enforcing immigration laws and will deny those communities federal funding.

DHS officials say the Trump administration will establish its criteria for what constitutes a sanctuary city, county, or state.

“The Department of Homeland Security is working to implement the president’s executive orders,” said Gillian Christensen, acting press secretary, in an email to Fox News. “When we have more information to share about how sanctuary jurisdictions will be determined, we will.”

Regardless of where they stand on immigration enforcement and sanctuary policies, many local, county and state officials say they welcome a clear definition of a sanctuary community. There is no hard and fast definition, and now, more than ever, that can have dire consequences, they say.

Vic DeLuca, the mayor of Maplewood, N.J., which has an ordinance declaring itself a sanctuary city, says the concept of sanctuary communities has been distorted by Trump and others who oppose it.

“The president has polluted the term,” said DeLuca, who added that about 26 percent of Maplewood’s population is foreign-born. “He’s used it for his own benefit, to say that if you’re a sanctuary city you’re shielding criminals, you’re harboring fugitives.”

Immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. (AP)

Trump Plans to Issue a New Immigration Executive Order Next Week

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will issue a new executive order to replace his controversial directive suspending travel to the United States by citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries.

At a White House news conference on Thursday, Trump said the new order would seek to address concerns raised by federal appeals court judges, who temporarily blocked his original travel ban.

"The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision," Trump said, adding: "We had a bad court."

Trump gave no details about the replacement order. Legal experts said a new directive would have a better chance of withstanding courtroom scrutiny if it covered some non-Muslim countries and exempted non-citizen immigrants living in the U.S. legally.

The original order, issued on Jan. 27, triggered chaos at some U.S. and overseas airports, led to international protests, complaints from U.S. businesses and drew more than a dozen legal challenges.
In a court filing on Thursday, the Justice Department asked for a pause in proceedings before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with a federal court in Washington state to suspend the travel ban, while litigation over its legality according to the U.S. Constitution played out.

The Justice Department asked the court to vacate that ruling once the administration has rescinded its original order and issued a new one. In an order later on Thursday, the 9th Circuit put proceedings over the ban on hold but did not say whether it would eventually withdraw its previous ruling.

The ban has been deeply divisive in the United States, with a Reuters/Ipsos poll indicating about half of Americans supported it shortly after the order took effect.

Trump's decision to issue a new directive plunges court proceedings over his earlier order into uncertainty. Litigants around the country said they will carefully examine any new policy to see if it raises similar constitutional issues and will continue to pursue legal action if necessary.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed the case that produced the 9th Circuit ruling, claimed victory on Thursday.

"Today's court filing by the federal government recognizes the obvious - the president's current executive order violates the Constitution," Ferguson said, in a statement. "President Trump could have sought review of this flawed order in the Supreme Court but declined to face yet another defeat."

Trump has said travel limitations are necessary to protect the United States from attacks by Islamist militants. His original order barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days. Refugees were banned for 120 days, except those from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.
Trump said on Thursday that the widely criticized rollout had been "very smooth" and once again blamed the court for "a bad decision."

The Justice Department court filing on Thursday said Trump's order would be "substantially revised" but provided no more details than the president did at his press conference. Last week an congressional aide who asked not to be identified told Reuters that Trump might rewrite the original order to explicitly exclude green card holders, who have legal permission to live and work in the United States.

Stephen Griffin, a professor of constitutional law at Tulane University, said adding non-Muslim countries could also help a new order withstand accusations that it discriminates based on religion. Given that the administration already identified the seven Muslim-majority countries as a threat, he said, it would be unlikely to remove any of those."I'd speculate they would add to the list, as opposed to walk it back," he said.

Federal immigration raids net many without criminal records, sowing fear

Oscar Ramirez and Thermon Brewster walked out of the Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church just before 7 a.m. — when those who sleep at its homeless shelter must leave for the day.

Outside the church in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Va., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were waiting.

As the two men and others crossed the street toward a shopping center on Feb. 8, about a dozen ICE agents ordered them up against the wall of a grocery store, questioning them about their immigration status. According to Ramirez and Brewster, the ICE agents then indiscriminately arrested seven of the homeless men — all of them Hispanic — and packed them into a van full of other detainees.

ICE tells it differently: An ICE official said officers approached the group, questioned them about a “potential target” and arrested two men, including a legal permanent resident of the United States. Both had been identified in the shopping center parking lot as “criminal aliens amenable to removable”— meaning deportation.

The U.S. government said the series of ICE raids last week netted at least 683 “criminal aliens,” the first major immigration enforcement wave under President Trump. But a growing chorus of activists, lawyers and lawmakers have pointed to a sharp discrepancy between what ICE says it is doing and what immigrant families are seeing and reporting in cities across the nation.

In Chicago, a student called her high school teacher to tell him that ICE had raided her home the night before, arresting her father, an undocumented immigrant whose criminal record included only traffic violations, the teacher said. In Centreville, Va., a woman told officials at London Towne Elementary School that a student’s father had been arrested after dropping their son off at school that morning. And in the Baltimore parking lot of a Walgreens, ICE agents arrested a barber and a local business owner who advocates said also had no criminal records.

The reports of seemingly random arrests, of ICE agents appearing during the day outside schools, shelters and apartment blocks, have sent a palpable wave of fear through the nation’s immigrant communities.

“I have never seen the immigrant community, both the lawfully and unlawfully present, with a greater amount of fear than I have in recent weeks,” said Faye Kolly, an attorney in Austin.

On Thursday, the agency’s top officials traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, some of whom had requested a briefing on the immigration enforcement actions. According to lawmakers present, ICE officials acknowledged that at least 186 of those apprehended in recent days had no criminal history.

“It was hard to not leave that meeting and believe that the Trump administration is going to target as many immigrants as possible,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who attended the meeting. “The only hesitation they seem to have was whether they would go after DACA recipients,” Castro said, referring to the thousands of young people who came to the United States as minors and were granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals under the Obama administration so they could pursue education and work opportunities.

ICE has arrested at least one DACA recipient during the raids. ICE says the man, Daniel Ramirez Medina, is a gang member.

Virginia State Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) accused ICE of engaging in “Gestapo-style” tactics that amount to racial profiling. Some immigrants have been locking themselves in their homes, wary of opening their doors for any visitors; others have kept their children out of school or stopped showing up at work. Supporters protested Thursday, some skipping work, to show the impact of what the nation would be like without immigrants.

ICE has repeatedly emphasized that agents are targeting dangerous criminals who are living in the United States illegally, as the agency did under President Barack Obama. But the agency has declined to identify any of the people who were arrested and has provided fewer than 20 examples of those swept up in the raids who had been charged with or previously convicted of violent or sexual crimes. ICE officials also declined to say how many people the agency arrested in Virginia and Maryland during operations last week and why ICE failed to mention those operations in its earlier acknowledgment of the operations nationwide.

“They’re doing street sweeps,” Surovell said. “Accosting groups of random people in public.”

ICE has denied that its officers have engaged in any “sweeps” or checkpoints, widespread allegations that have frightened immigrant communities from Raleigh, N.C., to Los Angeles. “Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps or ‘roundups’ are false, dangerous and irresponsible,” ICE tweeted.

In Austin, where immigration officials detained more than 50 people, news of “raids” quickly spread through immigrant neighborhoods after a bystander captured cellphone video of one of the first detentions and shared it on social media.

Carlos González Gutiérrez, Austin’s consul general of Mexico, visits ICE detention centers each day to provide legal support and interview Mexican nationals held in detention. On a typical day, he said, he talks to between one and three immigrants who have been detained. When he arrived last Thursday, he found 14 Mexican nationals in custody. On Friday, there were 30.

“There are cases of mistaken identity, cases of people who were passengers in cars that were pulled over, cases of people who are married to U.S. citizens and who have children who are born and live in this country,” said Gutiérrez, who has spoken with many of those detained in Austin. “It is pretty devastating what happens to the families that were caught in these nets. The destruction that comes after one of these operations is astounding.”

A government social worker for Durham County, N.C., said that the number of Hispanic residents seeking assistance had dropped off rapidly in recent days amid swirling rumors about an ICE checkpoint at a Durham intersection and ICE agents making arrests in a supermarket parking lot.

“Today, I haven’t gotten one Hispanic client in the entire check-in today,” said the social worker, a longtime government employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. “That never happens … They think that when they come here for assistance, that they’re going to be on some sort of invisible list.”

Rumors of raids and checkpoints — which ICE officials have denied — have residents of Virginia’s immigrant-rich Culmore neighborhood on edge. The cluster of apartment buildings off Route 7 in Northern Virginia house hundreds of immigrants, many of whom do not have legal status.

Rumors have gripped the imagination of neighbors here, forcing families indoors and being vigilant of any law enforcement patrolling their streets. Doors typically open to neighbors and passersby drawn by the smell of pupusas or rice are now closed and locked. Knocks at the front door trigger terror, and occupants are asking visitors to identify themselves first before opening the door.

One resident, Ulises Martinez, said neighbors are furiously exchanging text messages about officers with dogs stopping people on street corners, but none of those reports has been confirmed. When his neighbor, a teenager, came by and knocked, Martinez asked who it was. The cheeky teen responded saying “Me” in Spanish and half-joking.

But Martinez was serious.

“Who is ‘me?’,” he said, peering hard through the dirty peephole.

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