DOJ warns Denver that 'sanctuary' policies may break federal law

The cities are threatened with losing law enforcement money.

KUSA - The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement Wednesday accusing 29 U.S. cities, including Denver, of violating federal law with 'sanctuary' policies.

Places like Los Angeles, Jackson, Mississippi, Seattle, West Palm Beach, Florida and the entire state of Oregon received letters.

DOJ officials sent a letter fo Denver Police Chief Robert White saying that city code blocks organizations from requesting information about immigration or citizenship status - appearing to be out of line with U.S. Code Section 1373

For general purposes, Section 1373 of federal law deals with the relaying of information between different levels of government - local, state and federal - regarding the status of people's citizenship. 

The code states that no government in the U.S. may stop the requesting or sending of a person's citizenship status to different agencies. No law is allowed to block the keeping of citizenship records nor the exchange of that information between government agencies.

One government agency commonly blocked by these city ordinances is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the federal agency that finds and removes undocumented immigrants from the U.S. A growing number of U.S. cities have begun finding ways to block ICE from finding suspected illegal aliens, including Denver.

RELATED | Denver passes immigration ordinance restricting city cooperation with ICE

In Denver, a law passed in August unanimously by city council says that no government agency may keep information about an individual's immigration status.

To continue to get law enforcement grants - valued at $423,000 for 2017 - the city needs to remain compliant with the code, the DOJ's letter says.

DOJ officials wants a response to the letter by December 8 of this year. In the response letter, the Department of Justice wants to know if Denver will comply with Section 1373 moving forward.

Places like Seattle have adopted laws barring any cooperation with ICE regarding a suspected illegal alien unless accompanied by a criminal warrant, according to that city's code.

Hours before these letters were sent, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that the government couldn't take away grants due to it's 'sanctuary city' status, the Inquirer reports. There are no defined rules that define sanctuary cities.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled the city 'substantially complied with Trump administration's conditions,' according to the Inquirer.

At this point, it is not clear if the city will take legal action against Trump's administration the same way Philadelphia has. When the city council voted to stop tracking citizenship status, City Councilmembers Robin Kneich and Paul Lopez didn't rule out lawsuits.

They also didn't rule out just accepting the loss of the grant money.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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