DOJ facing broad challenge to anti-sanctuary city policy, prosecution advocate says

By Karen Kidd | Feb 5, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – A U.S. Department of Justice policy that ties federal funding to immigration-based requirements is being challenged nationwide, a prosecution advocate and former assistant U.S. attorney for California and Maryland said during a recent interview.

Litigation against the DOJ policy is prompted by public safety concerns, Miriam Aroni Krinsky, founder and executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution and signatory to a Jan. 29 amicus brief in a Los Angeles sanctuary city case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, said during a Legal Newsline email interview. 

"We are seeing lawsuits around the country - from Los Angeles to Chicago to Philadelphia - challenging efforts by the Department of Justice to withhold key federal funds from jurisdictions that understand the importance of policing predicated on community trust," Krinsky said.

Krinsky was an assistant U.S. attorney in California's Central District from 1987 to 1988 and 1990 to 2002, and in the District of Maryland from 1988 to 1990, as well as chair of the Solicitor General’s Criminal Appellate Advisory Group from 2000 to 2002.

Miriam Aroni Krinsky, former assistant U.S. attorney and founder and executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution   Photo courtesy of Fair and Just Prosecution

She said the DOJ's decision to prioritize funding for cities that assist with federal immigration enforcement will force local enforcement agencies to choose between requisite federal funding and protecting their communities.

"Those charged with protecting the public should not have their duty compromised by the Justice Department’s new policy," Krinsky said. "These concerns aren’t theoretical. One study of Latinos in four major cities found that 70 percent of undocumented immigrants and 44 percent of all Latinos are less likely to contact law enforcement authorities after being victimized by crime because they fear the police will ask them or people they know about immigration status. And 67 percent of undocumented immigrants and 45 percent of all Latinos are less likely to report or offer information about all other crimes because of the same fear."

Krinsky was one of 33 prosecutors and police who signed an amicus brief filed in support of Los Angeles' challenge to the DOJ's anti-sanctuary cities policies. Other signatories include current and former prosecutors and law enforcement leaders, district attorneys, state attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, commonwealth attorneys, sheriffs and police chiefs from 24 jurisdictions, according to a Fair and Just Prosecution press release.

"I was proud to join with over 30 prominent elected prosecutors, sheriffs and police chiefs who recognize that effective policing is predicated on the trust of all members of our community and that public safety is hampered when immigrant communities fear contact with our justice system," Krinsky said.

"Sadly, we are seeing intense pressure by the federal DOJ on cities, prosecutors and their partners in local law enforcement to abandon decades of community policing and trust-building practices."  

The amicus brief filed in Los Angeles' lawsuit, itself filed last September, is one of dozens of civil rights challenges to the Trump administration's various immigration enforcement orders. The amicus brief was co-authored by the Chicago law firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym and Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, according to the press release.

"The amicus brief filed this past week brings the credible and impactful voice of experience from law enforcement and criminal justice leaders around the nation to this issue," Krinsky said. "Thirty-three prominent current and former prosecutors and law enforcement leaders, including district attorneys, sheriffs and police chiefs, partnered with Fair and Just Prosecution to express their deep concern that public safety will be compromised if the Justice Department continues with their ill-founded attempt to entangle local localities in federal immigration enforcement. I and other signators on the brief are convinced that these new DOJ policies threaten to dismantle the critical bonds of trust that Los Angeles and many other cities have worked so hard to build."

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Georgetown Law Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland U.S. Department of Justice

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