In an escalation of the Trump administration’s war on sanctuary cities and states, the Justice Department sent a Fox News story to reporters that said the department was threatening to withdraw federal funds from California unless the state repealed a new law protecting some undocumented immigrants.
It was a mixed message, however. Attached to the emailed story — which the agency sent as an official news release — was a letter from a Justice Department official to a state official that contained no such threat, only a request to clarify some provisions of the law.
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Both documents were dated Wednesday. The news release was headlined “ICYMI,” shorthand for “in case you missed it,” and continued, “FOX News: DOJ threatens to pull California’s funding over ‘sanctuary state’ law.”
The article said the Justice Department had warned California to “drop its sanctuary state status or remain in violation of federal law and potentially lose out on millions of dollars.”
The Justice Department’s media affairs office confirmed Friday that it had
sent the news release, but did not respond to questions about the use of the Fox News article or the apparent contradiction between the article and the attached letter.
The new state law, SB54, due to take effect Jan. 1, broadens restrictions on state and local law enforcement officials’ cooperation with federal immigration agents.
It will prohibit law enforcement from keeping immigrants in custody after they have served their sentence so immigration agents can pick them up for deportation, unless the federal officials have a warrant. That prohibition would not apply to immigrants who have been convicted of, or are charged with, violent or serious crimes. The new law also bars police from asking people about their immigration status.
At least 300 cities and counties nationwide, including San Francisco, have adopted sanctuary laws or policies that limit their cooperation with immigration officers. President Trump has threatened to strip them of federal funding, but a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that the administration lacked authority to do so.
By Bob Egelko for SF GATE
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