A proposed state law to limit cooperation between local police and immigration authorities could cost Kings County agencies more than $1 million in federal grants.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that the Department of Justice will crack down on so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by withholding DOJ grant money until they comply with immigration laws.
“Such policies make their cities and states less safe, and put them at risk of losing valuable federal dollars,” Sessions said.
Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson said the proposed SB-54, also known as the California Values Act, would require agencies statewide to violate the law. That could jeopardize DOJ-administered grants used to pay for police and equipment countywide.
“A lot of people think it’s only going to impact the jails,” Robinson said. “That’s not true.”
In December 2016, state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles proposed SB-54 to bar state and local law enforcement from detaining a person exclusively for immigration violations, and from reporting or handing a person to federal immigration authorities.
Sessions said the DOJ will require all jurisdictions seeking grants to prove they are complying with Title 8, Section 1373 of the U.S. Code.
The code prohibits any laws from restricting communication “regarding the citizenship or immigration status … of any individual” between local law enforcement and immigration authorities.
Robinson said the sheriff’s office has a $500,000 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant that pays for the department’s four school resource deputies. The three-year grant, awarded in 2013, will expire this year.
“The potential is that we wouldn’t even be considered for that grant renewal,” Robinson said.
The county receives an additional $60,000 to $70,000 per year as part of the federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP, which reimburses jails for housing criminal aliens convicted of crimes.
Robinson said the county is also finishing out a $660,000 grant from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. The grant supports Police Activities League programs and gang awareness presentations at local schools.
The DOJ awarded the Lemoore Police Department with a $125,000 COPS hiring grant in 2016 to help pay for an additional full-time police officer. The Avenal Police Department received a similar $125,000 grant in 2015.
The Hanford Police Department and the Kings County Probation Department received a $37,000 DOJ grant in 2016. The grant is being used to buy equipment for the two agencies.
Corcoran police Chief Reuben Shortnacy said his department does not currently receive any DOJ-administered funding.
Amendments made to SB-54 Wednesday would allow agencies to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding suspects convicted of violent crimes.
“The amendments don’t take away the fact that we would not be able to communicate with the federal government on certain things,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the law would force immigration authorities to seek criminal aliens in the community, rather than in the jails. Apprehending criminals at their homes could result in other undocumented immigrants, including the suspect’s family members, being detained and possibly deported.
Despite SB-54’s apparent conflict with federal law, the bill contains a provision saying it would not restrict any communication that violates federal law.
“If SB-54 passes, in all likelihood, there will be many of us who won’t comply with it,” he said.
Sessions said the DOJ expects to award more than $4.1 billion in grants nationwide.
De León called Session’s threat “nothing short of blackmail” in a statement released Monday.
“Instead of making us safer, the Trump administration is spreading fear and promoting race-based scapegoating,” De León said.