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DOJ asks Clark County for proof it's complying with federal immigration laws

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
ImmigrationLocal Government

The Department of Justice informed Clark County today that it must provide proof that it is following federal immigration laws or risk losing grant funding.

The DOJ sent a letter to County Manager Yolanda King asking her to submit documentation of compliance — including “an official legal opinion from counsel that adequately supports the validation” — by June 30 to the Office of Justice Programs, which administers a grant the county receives.

“Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future OJP grants or subgrants, or other action, as appropriate,” the letter states.

Clark County officials released a statement swiftly denying the insinuation that it is acting as a so-called sanctuary county and said they will respond to the DOJ accordingly. County leaders have never expressed support for any movement that promotes violating federal laws or regulations regarding immigration, officials said, noting that they’ve taken oaths to uphold both state and federal laws.

“The county remains mindful of its voluntary undertaken obligations in various state and federal grant applications to uphold all lawful federal statutes and regulations,” county officials said in a statement. “For this reason, we do not anticipate any budgetary impacts as a result of reduction in federal revenues, and continue to plan our budget preparations accordingly.”

Local law enforcement previously expressed concern about carrying out certain immigration-related activities at the local level that it believed posed constitutional issues, which is why officials suspect Clark County was included on some sanctuary locale lists.

ICE has listed Metro Police as an uncooperative agency in recent “Declined Detainer Outcome” reports based on a 2014 policy put in place by then-Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who said the department would no longer detain individuals solely based on a federal immigration detainer. The policy shift, in which Metro said it wouldn’t honor ICE requests without judicial determination of probable cause or a warrant from a judicial officer, came in the wake of a federal court ruling that an Oregon county had violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her without probable cause.

Metro has contested the non-cooperative label for two reasons: It is one of 37 law enforcement agencies out of about 18,000 total across the country that actively participates in immigration-related activities through its 287(g) agreement with ICE, and it changed its policy in January to hold individuals for 48 hours, as long as federal officials provide them with a special form with written probable cause, which the department’s counsel believes satisfies constitutionality concerns.

Clark County officials noted that Southern Nevada law enforcement agencies continue to work closely with ICE.

In fact, Metro recently opposed legislation that would have limited their ability to participate in immigration-related activities. A bill introduced by Sen. Yvanna Cancela, which died last week without ever receiving a hearing, would have barred state and local police from participating in federal immigration activities without a warrant.

The legislation would have effectively nullified Metro’s so-called 287(g) agreement with ICE, which allows them to carry out certain immigration enforcement activities in the county jail.

Department officials worried that the legislation would compound the “sanctuary” label they are currently fighting and jeopardize the federal funding they receive from the DOJ, about $9 million annually out of a $550 million budget for fiscal year 2016-17. Those grants include the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which goes toward a host of state and local law enforcement expenses, and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which reimburses state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating undocumented immigrants.

The DOJ letter to the county named the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant as the one that could be in jeopardy.

Clark County was one of nine jurisdictions that received letters from the DOJ asking for proof of compliance with federal immigration laws. The other letter recipients include:

  • California Board of State and Community Corrections
  • Chicago Police Department
  • City of New Orleans
  • City of Philadelphia
  • Miami Dade Police Department
  • Milwaukee County
  • New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
  • Cook County Board of Commissioners

Feature photo caption: Laura Martin , associate director for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, hands out literature to a couple during a Metro Police community outreach meeting on immigration enforcement Monday, March 13, 2017, at East Las Vegas Community Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave. Photo by Jeff Scheid.


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