November 16, 2017 – Paul Murphy
Mayor Mitch spent much of Thursday morning, meeting with Attorney General Jeff Session and Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) to once again make the case that New Orleans is not a haven for undocumented immigrants.
The Department of Justice has identified New Orleans as a so called “sanctuary city” and threatened to withhold millions of dollars in criminal justice grants.
Sen. Kennedy set up the meeting.
“I’m guardedly encouraged and optimistic,” Kennedy said. “I hope that we can work this. The grants are important to us in Louisiana and in New Orleans to try and fight the rampant crime problem.”
Last month, the DOJ sent the mayor a letter giving the city one last chance to “validate” the NOPD is in compliance with a section of federal law that requires local governments and police to provide information to immigration enforcement agents.
Thursday, the attorney general put conditions on New Orleans’ sanctuary city status.
He wants the city to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at least 48 hours before the city releases illegal immigrants who are already in jail.
Session also wants the city to allow ICE to interview illegal immigrants while they are in the custody of the city.
A Landrieu spokesman said the mayor and the city cannot commit to those demands because he says both of them fall under the jurisdiction of the parish jail and Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman.
Immigration advocate Martin Gutierrez from New Orleans Catholic Charities says immigrants are concerned about the politics surrounding sanctuary cities.
“Their concern is what are they going to do when they become a reporter of crime and they happen to be undocumented,” Gutierrez said. “How is the police going to treat them? Are they going to decide not report the crime because of their immigration status?”
Gutierrez also maintains there has been stepped up immigration enforcement in recent months in New Orleans and across the country.
“We are hearing that the activity has increased,” Gutierrez said. “There have been more detentions, more arrests and more deportations over the last six months.”
Mayor Landrieu released this statement about Thursday’s meeting in DC:
“Today, I, along with both City Attorney Rebecca Dietz and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, met with Senator Kennedy and Attorney General Sessions to discuss the City of New Orleans’ compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373.
We are pleased that the Attorney General and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along–New Orleans is not a “sanctuary city” and the NOPD’s policies have maintained consistent compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373.
Our police department will continue to focus on arresting criminals—irrespective of their immigration status. In New Orleans, we pride ourselves on being a welcoming city. Diversity is a strength, and we will continue to make the city safe for everyone.”
Sen. Kennedy released this statement:
“We had a very productive meeting this morning with Attorney General Sessions and Mayor Landrieu. We are closer to a resolution then we were yesterday.
The Attorney General made two reasonable requests. First, he wants to ensure that the city of New Orleans notifies U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at least 48 hours before the city releases illegal immigrants who are already in jail.
Second, he wants the city to allow ICE to interview these illegal immigrants while they are in the custody of the city. Again, these are reasonable requests, and I hope the Mayor will agree to them.”