NEW ORLEANS -- The U.S. Department of Justice has told the city of New Orleans it has a "last chance" to prove it’s not a "sanctuary city" or risk losing federal funding the NOPD uses for crime fighting.
A letter from the DOJ sent to Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Wednesday is the latest dispute between the city and feds in their running battle about sanctuary cities.
While the DOJ said New Orleans and a handful of other areas have one final time to prove their compliance, Landrieu said the city is already in compliance with federal immigration law. “However, the NOPD will not be the federal government’s deportation force,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement.
The DOJ claims that an NOPD policy “may” violate a federal statute that deals with how local governments provide information to federal immigration officials “depending on how your jurisdiction interprets and applies them,” Alan Hanson, acting assistant attorney general wrote.
Landrieu has denied that New Orleans is a sanctuary city and has disputed prior findings from the DOJ with letters that he says prove the city is in compliance with federal law.
The NOPD policy that the DOJ has challenged says that officers “shall not make inquiries into an individual’s immigration status,” unless they have a reason to ask. That policy is governed by the consent decree, something Police Superintendent Michael Harrison noted during a brief press conference outside of NOPD headquarters.
He said the goal is to make sure that anyone who interacts with police is safe and able to report crimes without fear of deportation.
Federal officials, though, have said that policy makes it easier for dangerous criminals who are in the country illegally to escape arrest. And the Justice Department apparently rejected the city's earlier attempts to prove compliance. The DOJ letter Wednesday demanded that the city give proof that NOPD officers are allowed to contact federal immigration authorities to ask about a person's immigration status.
The Washington Post reported that the city could stand to lose $265,000 in federal grant money the city uses to fight crime.
“Time and time again, I have warned Mitch Landrieu that his blatant disregard for the law would have serious consequences for the city of New Orleans,” state Attorney General Jeff Landry wrote in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, the mayor has ignored my many warnings and continued to risk the safety, security, and funding of our state’s citizens. Mitch Landrieu is playing politics at the expense of New Orleans.”
In addition to New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cook County, Illinois (which includes the city of Chicago and many of its suburbs), also received letters from the DOJ asking for proof that they are not in violation of any federal laws that deal with immigration.
Those areas whose laws the DOJ said might violate federal law have until Oct. 27 to send evidence that they are in compliance.