Attorney General Threatens San Bernardino over Supposed “Sanctuary City” Status

Aug 4, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent out a letter to four cities - Albuquerque, Baltimore, Stockton, and San Bernardino - urging them to cooperate with federal immigration authorities or lose federal funding. KVCR's Ben Purper has more.

[STORY SCRIPT]

The city of San Bernardino was singled out by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday for not cooperating with federal immigration law, as part of the Trump Administration’s crackdown on sanctuary cities.

But there’s just one problem: San Bernardino never declared itself a sanctuary city.

Sessions threatened to withhold federal funds for a new crime-fighting program unless San Bernardino agrees to closer cooperation with federal immigration authorities – specifically, to hold inmates suspected of being undocumented for up to 48 hours beyond the scheduled release date.

San Bernardino County Police Chief Jarrod Burguan says the city doesn’t have the legal authority to do that without a warrant – and regardless, the city hasn’t taken any steps to avoid cooperating with federal authorities.

Burguan said, “Quite frankly, a lot of those issues don’t even impact us, they impact the custody setting, and the City of San Bernardino does not operate a jail. Everyone we arrest goes to the county jail system.”

He also added that the city hadn’t requested to be a part of the violence reduction program, as Sessions’ letter implied. The San Bernardino Sun reports that the city had been invited by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles during President Barack Obama’s administration, raising the question of how and why the city of San Bernardino was singled out by the Trump administration.

There is at least one elected official in San Bernardino, however, who would like to increase the city’s cooperation with federal authorities. Sheriff John McMahon said in an interview in February that his department would do so if given the authority.

“To be quite honest, those that are wanted by ICE, that are detained in our facilities, are dangerous criminals. If we allow that inmate to walk out of our jail, and ICE isn’t there to pick him up, that inmate returns to the community. That could pose a danger for the public that we serve and try to protect.”

For now, the city is unable to comply to Sessions’ requirements, raising the question of whether the administration will withhold funding to the city for a policy that is essentially out of their control.