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Clark County must prove compliance with immigration laws, feds say

Updated April 22, 2017 - 11:13 am

Clark County Manager Yolanda King on Friday addressed fresh demands from the U.S. Department of Justice to prove that the county is enforcing federal immigration laws or risk losing hundreds of thousands of federal grant money.

“We absolutely are in compliance,” King said. “Our board (of county commissioners) has not taken any action declaring ourselves as a ‘sanctuary’ county.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson sent the letter Friday to Clark County and eight other jurisdictions.

All the jurisdictions receive Justice Assistance Grants and were identified by the agency’s inspector general in May 2016 as having policies that limit cooperation with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement.

“Additionally, many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the DOJ wrote in a statement released Friday.

Federal law says state and local governments may not prohibit local law enforcement from giving federal authorities information about a person’s immigration status. Friday’s letters warns King and other officials that they have until June 30 to prove their compliance with the law along with “an official legal opinion from counsel that adequately supports the validation.”

King said the county will send its proof. An official statement from the county expounded on her position:

“As a body, (the county) has never expressed support for any movement that promotes the violation of any federal statute or regulation that provides federal agencies authority in the field of immigration law enforcement,” the statement said. “To the contrary, our elected officials have taken an oath to uphold both state and federal laws.”

“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,” the statement concluded.

Warning letters also were sent to officials in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami-Dade County, Milwaukee County and the California corrections board.

If the DOJ determines that a jurisdiction is not in compliance, Hanson wrote, its grant money could be withheld or terminated. Last year, the county received about $975,000 in Justice Assistance Grant funds, county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said.

Police agencies use the grants — the leading source of federal justice funding — to pay for items ranging from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

Immigration “detainers”

Last year, Clark County was labeled noncompliant with federal law because the county jail declined immigration “detainers,” ICE’s requests to hold potentially deportable inmates for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release date.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which operates the jail, stopped cooperating in 2014 after a federal court ruling that an Oregon county had violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her in jail past her release date without cause.

Metro shifted its policy in January. The agency now starts the 48-hour detainer clock after notifying ICE at booking when a person is identified as a potential immigration violator.

Regardless, Clark County was included in two lists ICE published this year naming the top “non-cooperative jurisdictions” in enforcing federal immigration laws.

The county was not included on the last iteration of the list. Metro attributed the removal to Sheriff Joseph Lombardo’s March meeting with federal officials to discuss immigration issues. ICE has suspended publishing the reports while it refines its reporting methodologies, according to the agency’s website.

Lombardo told The Associated Press that neither Clark County nor the city of Las Vegas has any law directing Metro officers not to cooperate with ICE.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

DOJ JAG Letter by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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