The mayor of Lawrence is accusing the Trump administration of “focusing on imaginary bad guys” after the Department of Justice threatened to use subpoena powers to obtain documents on whether the city is protecting criminal illegal immigrants.
“It just seems like more bullying,” Mayor Daniel Rivera told the Herald last night, when asked why he thought Lawrence was one of only two New England cities singled out in letters sent yesterday. “There’s no rhyme or reason for it.”
The Department of Justice issued letters to 23 jurisdictions nationwide — including Lawrence and Burlington, Vt. — demanding they turn over documents that might reveal whether they are actively instructing local law enforcement not to cooperate with federal agencies on illegal immigration issues.
The letters warn that if the jurisdictions don’t respond, the Department of Justice will subpoena the information and could ultimately rescind federal grant money.
“I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law.”
Other targets of the DOJ letter included Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and the entire states of California, Illinois and Oregon.
Rivera responded in a statement that the letter came as a “surprise” because the city had already complied with a similar DOJ request last year.
“We have not given the DOJ any reason to think that we are hiding anything from them,” he said.
Lawrence is the recipient of a $72,000 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant to buy radios for city police cruisers, and failure to comply with the DOJ request could jeopardize that federal funding.
Rivera said officials will meet today to determine how to respond to the DOJ letter, but stressed that they will cooperate.
“I didn’t run for mayor to get into a fight with Jeff Sessions,” Rivera said. “We’ll be responsive.”
Rivera said the city immediately notifies the feds anytime police fingerprint a criminal listed in the database of wanted illegal immigrants.
The city also tried to turn the tables, demanding the Trump administration provide its own proof that the city is failing to follow proper procedure.
“I would challenge the DOJ to produce a report of the number of undocumented criminals they have been looking for that we have denied them access to,” Rivera said. “Since becoming a Trust Act community, the city of Lawrence has helped federal law enforcement agencies nine times to apprehend or hold undocumented criminals. Today’s letter is a red herring and a continuation to politicize the federal government’s failure to produce a common sense immigration policy.”
Rivera insisted Lawrence is “not harboring undocumented criminals” and claimed the Trump administration is “focusing on imaginary bad guys.”
The United States Conference of Mayors, which planned to meet with President Trump at the White House yesterday, abruptly canceled after news of the letters broke.
“Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again — and use cities as political props in the process — has made this meeting untenable,” USCM President and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh echoed Landrieu, saying, “I stand with my fellow mayors. We refuse to allow President Trump to threaten cities and immigrants across our nation.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the letters a “racist assault on our immigrant communities.”
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