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Barr Announces 'Significant Escalation' in Fight Against Sanctuary Cities

AP Photo/Richard Drew

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announced Thursday a “significant escalation” in the fight against liberal sanctuary cities that have hamstrung the federal immigration system.


Part of the Trump administration’s response is to file multiple lawsuits against these cities, he said during remarks at the National Sheriff’s Association 2020 Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington, D.C.

"Let us state the reality upfront and as clearly as possible," Barr said. "When we are talking about sanctuary cities, we are talking about policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape. These policies are not about people who came to our country illegally but have otherwise been peaceful and productive members of society.  Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes.  This is neither lawful nor sensible."

Barr said a federal complaint has been filed against New Jersey over its laws that prevent state and local law enforcement from sharing information about criminal aliens with the Department of Homeland Security. King County, Washington, has also been targeted for prohibiting DHS from deporting illegal aliens from the international airport in the city, he said.


"Further, we are reviewing the practices, policies, and laws of other jurisdictions across the country.  This includes assessing whether jurisdictions are complying with our criminal laws, in particular the criminal statute that prohibits the harboring or shielding of aliens in the United States," Barr said. 

For now, the attorney general announced the DOJ will help DHS bypass “uncooperative jurisdictions” through federal subpoenas to get the information they need about criminal aliens.

“[W]e are meticulously reviewing the actions of certain district attorneys who have adopted policies of charging foreign nationals with lesser offenses for the express purpose of avoiding the federal immigration consequences of those nationals’ criminal conduct,” Barr added. “In pursuing their personal ambitions and misguided notions of equal justice, these district attorneys are systematically violating the rule of law and may even be unlawfully discriminating against American citizens."

Like President Trump in his State of the Union address, Barr pointed to fatal examples of how sanctuary cities are failing U.S. citizens. 


He argued the Constitution's Supremacy Clause is a "vital part of our constitutional order."

"While federal law does not require that 'sanctuary jurisdictions' actively assist with federal immigration enforcement, it does prohibit them from interfering with our enforcement efforts," Barr explained.

"Today is a significant escalation in the federal government’s efforts to confront the resistance of 'sanctuary cities,’” the attorney general said in closing. “But by no means do the efforts outlined above signify the culmination of our fight to ensure the rule of law, to defend the Constitution, and to keep Americans safe.  We will consider taking action against any jurisdiction that, or any politician who, unlawfully obstructs the federal enforcement of immigration law."

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