In summary

In a letter to San Bernardino and Stockton—cities plagued by violence— the Trump administration made clear that cities need not apply for new crime-fighting funds if they are “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants.

Two California cities in the running for a new federal aid program aimed at fighting violent crime received an ominous message today from the Trump Department of Justice: sanctuary cities need not apply.

In a letter sent to the police chiefs of San Bernardino and Stockton, the administration made it clear that participation in the newly created National Public Safety Partnership Program—which will train local police departments on how to better fight violent crime—may be conditional on cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Your jurisdiction has expressed interest in receiving assistance through the PSP program,” wrote acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson.The Department is reviewing your jurisdiction’s commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration.” 

The chiefs were asked to demonstrate that the laws of their cities require local police to allow federal immigration agents into city jails, provide federal authorities with advanced notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant from custody, and honor federal requests to detain an undocumented immigrant beyond his or her release date.

The California Trust Act prevents state and local law enforcement officers from keeping non-felons behind bars solely at the request of federal immigration authorities. The Justice Department has deemed this, and related state and local restrictions, to be unlawful “sanctuary” policies.

President Trump has threatened to revoke funding from designated “sanctuary cities” since the first days of his administration. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security began issuing weekly reports identifying cities, counties, and states considered to be out of compliance with federal immigration law. San Bernardino, though not Stockton, made the list. That program has since been suspended.

Last week, the Department of Justice announced that cities failing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities would no longer be eligible for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides state and local law enforcement agencies with funding for personnel, training, and equipment to fight crime.

Michael Tubbs, the mayor of Stockton, responded with a statement saying that while he looked forward to a “fair and equitable” review of the police department’s application, the city would not be changing any of its law enforcement policies. “Our police will continue the department policy to not stop, question, detain or place an immigration hold on any individual solely on the grounds that he or she may be a deportable alien,” said Tubbs. “This practice is consistent with law enforcement policy throughout the United States.”

Between January and July of this year, 2,158 violent crimes were committed in Stockton, making it the most violent city in the state per capita, according to FBI statistics. San Bernardino came in third after Oakland.

The police chiefs were given until August 18 to respond.

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Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...