Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Trump war on sanctuary cities: so many lies, so much bullshit

I guess it was predictable enough when Trump's approval rating started getting dangerously close to freezing after the Trumpcare debacle.

Someone opened whatever sarcophagus they store this mummy in and trotted out former Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, by the grace of God and the slaveholder's constitution, Attorney General of the United States.

With the Great Leader's approval in free-fall, down five points in three days according to  Gallup, the Trumpeteer staged an immediate immigrant-bashing rescue operation.
Some states and cities have adopted policies designed to frustrate this enforcement of immigration laws. This includes refusing to detain known felons on the federal detainer request or otherwise failing to comply with these laws. For example, the Department of Homeland Security recently issued a report showing that in a single week there were more than 200 instances of jurisdictions refusing to honor ICE detainer requests with respect to individuals charged or convicted of a serious crime. These—the charges and convictions against these aliens include drug trafficking, hit and run, rape, sex offenses against a child, and even murder.
But refusing "ICE detainer requests" is not against the law. A detainer is informally called an "immigration hold" and is a fill-in-the-blanks and tick-the-boxes form telling jailers, let us know when you're letting this person go so we can be there to pick them up and if we're not, please hold on to them. The form itself says,
IT IS REQUESTED THAT YOU [emphasis added]; 
[ ] Maintain custody of the subject for a period NOT TO EXCEED 48 HOURS, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, beyond the time when the subject would have otherwise been released from your custody to allow DHS to take custody of the subject....
Note the word "requested".  The very definition of the word says you can agree or refuse. Otherwise it is an "order."

And then note the other very peculiar detail (in bold and ALLCAPS in the original):
for a period NOT TO EXCEED 48 HOURS
That is based on a cop swindle: because the courts have given them a hard, cast-in-concrete requirement that they bring anyone they have arrested to a judge within 48 hours so the cops can prove the arrest is legal, it means you can get away with illegal arrests provided you let them go before the 48-hour deadline.

What the courts have told them in several recent cases is that it just ain't so: just because you only have 48 hours to show you followed the law doesn't mean you can violate it for 47 hours and 59 minutes.

The federal courts have made it clear that even for an elected local sheriff with an immigration hold in hand, there is no 48-hour escape clause nor "the feds made me do it" excuse. If you were supposed to let someone go but you didn't do it because the immigration cops asked you to keep them locked up, that is a new arrest, and a local jailer who does that is liable for damages under civil rights law unless there is good probable cause.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and the Virgin Islands) ruled a local sheriff who held someone who turned out to be a U.S. citizen (as he had insisted all along) was liable for damages (to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars) for false arrest. Even if all the sheriff did was accede to the request of the immigration cops. The Feds also had to pay, BTW.

That is why after all the blah blah blah from Sessions, when he got down to the actual threat to punish so-called "sanctuary cities" he said they better obey section 1373 of the U.S. Code ... or else!

You'd think that Section 1373 is the one that sets up ICE immigration detainers, but that is not the case. Here's the text of the operative part:
... [A] Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.
But in reality, there are no "sanctuary cities" that violate this law. And note the reference to "the Immigration and Naturalization Service." That government department was abolished by the 2001 Patriot Act. It was split in two, with the immigration cops going to DHS, and immigration and citizenship services remaining in the Justice Department.

The language is old because the provision comes from Bill Clinton's catastrophically reactionary and repressive 1996 immigration law, but section 1373 is a relic. Today the exchange of information takes place automatically via the Internet between local cops, the FBI and the Department of Homeland security. Nobody in any local government gives or denies access to information about immigrants that have been arrested: it is all automated.

So what does the actual wording of Session's specific, formal requirement about federal funding and section 1373 actually say?

Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip.

There is no new rule, regulation, memorandum, guidance, letter of understanding or anything else, mostly because a rule Obama already put in does exactly what Session threatened to punish you for. You have to say you comply with 1373 to apply for federal funds. Big fucking deal.

Sessions' little session with the press was a farce, with him earnestly promising to defend the American people by vigorous use of the doohicky on the framerstan that wards off the dire peril of grumph ... whether the alpha centaurians like it or not!

Which brings us to the real crime here: not murder, child molestation, rape, assault or using a false ID.

The real crime is making terroristic threats. Trump has, time and again, been threatening to come down on immigrants like the ton of bricks he would have bought to build his wall except he can't because Congress hasn't given him the money.

He "ordered" the hiring of 10,000 more jack-booted border patrol thugs in his January executive order on immigration. Except that even in his pie-in-the-sky budget from a couple of weeks ago he asked for only a thousand, or 10%. For his $20 billion border wall, he requested $2 billion, also 10%. He also executive "ordered" 5,000 more goons for interior enforcement, like kidnapping high schoolers waiting to go to school at the bus stop, snatching people who dutifully show up for a court hearing and so on. The budget says gimme 500, again 10%.

What's going on? Trump's real immigration program is exactly the same as the 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: self deportation.

In terms of so-called "enforcement," Trump's real program is not much more or much less than what Obama already did, only he wants ICE to do it with a lot more growling and meanness. The one significant change is that where Obama was arbitrarily cruel, Trump wants to be systematically cruel.

But the idea is to simply terrorize the immigrant community, and especially from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, so people flee back to their home country or at least, stop coming.

It can't possibly work: the five, ten or fifteen beheaded corpses that show up in Mexico's state of Guerrero every Monday are much more convincing than the bleating coming from the Animal Farm on Pennsylvania Avenue.

But it would be nice is if the so-called "adversarial" press began to do its job.

How did I discovered that Jeff Sessions' legal threats against Sanctuary Cities were bullshit?

I used a super-secret, hyper-confidential, Jedi master initiate technique that only those who trained with Obi-wan or Yoda himself could possibly have suspected even existed. I went to --brace yourselves-- "" (incredibly and heroically brave as it may sound) and ... I then leaped into the abyss by typing "U.S. Code Section 1373".

One of the people that trained me as a journalist was a man name Joseph Hansen, editor of a weekly publication called Intercontinental Press. Something he impressed on me and that has served me well for four decades is never to take someone's word for it; check the original sources, and if not available, don't rely on just one secondary source when several are available.

Today it is extremely easy to check original sources and multiple sources. Yet journalists no longer do this. And I don't mean for the Alatoona Fishwrapper, but supposedly top-class outfits like The New York Times, the Washington Post, AP and Reuters.

So we get mistakes like reporting that Sessions finally put teeth into Trump's original executive order on immigration. Not so. The original Trump order from January 25 has exactly the same empty provision as Session's Monday announcement: "
... [T]he Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants....
Moreover, even the quickest read of a Trump "Executive Order" shows they're really just press releases in Oval Office drag. For example, the immigration one grandiloquently proclaims that by the authority vested in him and so on he "hereby declare[s] the policy of the executive branch to be" and then comes the rest of the order.

"Policy" is not an action but an aspirational description of goals and how they might be achieved, but actually proclaiming a "policy" in and of itself does absolutely nothing. And, except for one, all of Trump's executive orders that I've read are like that: proclamations of aspirations, not instructions for specific actions.

The one exception, of course, was the Muslim ban, but the courts are taking care of that.

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