Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and others reacted Tuesday to the Trump Administration including New Orleans on a list of communities labelled as being uncooperative with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.
President Donald Trump is threatening to cut off some federal funds to communities that do not work with ICE on people who entered the U.S. illegally.
The Declined Detainer Outcome Report released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is required by an executive order signed by Trump on Jan. 25. The report, which is to be issued weekly, will highlight which agencies choose not to cooperate with ICE detainers. Those are requests that ICE be notified before someone in the country illegally, who is already in local law enforcement custody, is released.
ICE said in a press release that it places detainers on individuals for whom it has probable cause to believe they are removable from the United States.
"There's no definition of sanctuary city," said Laila Hlaas, a Tulane Law professor who focuses on immigration law.
The federal Homeland Security Department said from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3 of this year, ICE issued 3,083 detainers throughout the U.S.
Orleans Parish is listed on the document for declining to honor a detainer request issued Jan. 31 for an individual from Mexico with a battery conviction. According to the DHS document, the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office declined the request a day later on Feb. 1.
In the past, it has been the jail's policy to contact ICE when illegal immigrants are accused of serious crimes.
On Monday, Sheriff Marlin Gusman issued the following statement:
"I am proud to continue to stand behind our jail policies that make New Orleans safer city while also keeping families together and using precious resources wisely.
"The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office policy on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) voluntary detainers clearly defines standards and procedures for OPSO interactions with ICE personnel while protecting the Constitutional rights of all individuals in our custody, care and control; and complying with federal law.
"The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office continues to stand firmly behind our ICE policy. Under the policy, the Sheriff's Office shall decline all voluntary ICE detainer requests unless the individual is charged with one or more specific crimes of violence.
"I firmly believe that these policies and practices promote what is best for our city and comply with federal law. Our ICE policy is about freedom and fairness, ideals upon which I hope we can all agree and upon which our country was built. If we are to continue to be judged by these ideals, I believe our current ICE policy places us on the right side of this issue and keeps us on the path to a stronger future."
Professor Hlass said the information released by DHS does not provide the full picture and is misleading.
"Decades worth of data have shown us that immigrants are far less likely than American people to commit crime, so the information is being put out there to create a false narrative," she said.
She said local communities have other law enforcement priorities.
"They have a lot more important things to do, they have serious crimes that they're dealing with, so it can be a burden on law enforcement. They're also trying to engage in community policing, they're trying to build trust in different communities," she further stated.
Zach Butterworth, director of the City of New Orleans Federal Relations Office, said in 2015, City Hall received $4.5 million from the Department of Justice, and $1.8 million of it involved the C.O.P.S Program and was used for salaries for nine NOPD officers.
Butterworth said in 2016, New Orleans received $18 million from HUD in federal block grants. And Butterworth said they continue to believe that Trump cannot legally strip away the funds.
"New Orleans finds itself in a huge pickle. The president's values contrasted against city leaders' values, but then you have this federal consent decree which mandates that the NOPD handle its arresting practices in certain ways," said Mike Sherman, FOX 8's political analyst.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a statement on the city being included on the "uncooperative" list:
"First and foremost, the NOPD does now and will continue to follow federal laws and focus on arresting people who commit crime, regardless of their immigration status.
"The NOPD's policy on immigration complies with federal law and makes New Orleans safer because individuals are more likely to report crime, and victims and witnesses can testify without fear of being questioned about their immigration status. That's why the NOPD will continue to focus on arresting those who commit violent crimes, not enforcing civil immigration laws. The Department of Justice, the federal consent decree monitor and the Federal judge overseeing the consent decree have approved our immigration policy, and it has served us well. Going back to September of 2015, officials at ICE were consulted in the drafting of NOPD's immigration policy. This agency, which is responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws, never expressed any concern with the NOPD's policy.
"We are focused on fighting crime, and we will not move officers off the street to join President Trump's deportation force.Lastly, the Trump Administration should be aware that the City of New Orleans and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office are separate legal entities run by independently elected leaders."
"If federal funds were suspended from New Orleans, it would be devastating," said Sherman. "Over a quarter of our non-general fund expenditures, about 10 percent of all city funds on an annual basis are federal funds, so if this threat is carried through, it would be devastating to social services in New Orleans."
The Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security said it was waiting for federal guidelines on any possible grant changes. And as many communities wait for the other shoe to drop, there is a question of whether members of Congress will get involved in pushing back against the president.
"If Congress doesn't act, the president's authority through executive orders is quite broad, particularly in areas of federal funding," said Sherman.
A public affairs spokesman at DHS headquarters in Washington said ICE does not administer grants, and inclusion on the DDOR will not automatically result in ineligibility for grants. He said DHS is working to develop a process with the Department of Justice and other inter-agency partners to address the requirement of the executive order.