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Albany among cities DOJ asks to prove federal immigration law compliance

January 24, 2018 11:18 PM

ALBANY - Albany is an official sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.

“If they need help they need to call us and we will be there,” said Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “We're not going to be asking them about their immigration status.” 

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This also makes the city a target as the Department of Justice cracks down on sanctuary cities.

While attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning, Mayor Sheehan said she was surprised to learn Albany is among 23 municipalities receiving letters from the DOJ demanding proof that the cities are following immigration law. 

The letters specifically want to know whether police and sheriff's deputies are sharing information about immigrants with federal immigration agents.

“This was perceived by a lot of us as an attack,” Sheehan said.

If the local governments do not comply with the DOJ’s request, they risk losing federal crime-fighting funds. 

They also risk receiving subpoenas from the DOJ.

“Federal law does not require that local law enforcement enforce immigration law,” Sheehan said. “That is something that is enforced at the federal level.” 

In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, "I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk."

“If somebody commits a crime in the city of Albany we are going to arrest them and we are going to prosecute them,” Sheehan said. 

Immigration activists like Jennifer Benn of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement view the DOJ’s request as a way for the department to scare immigrants. 

“Scare them to come forward if there's any domestic violence scare them to get help,” Benn said. “I think it will also scare some of our local officials.”
The news follows a similar DOJ request Sheehan said Albany complied with just before the New Year. 

“We have provided all the information that the Department of Justice would need to determine that we are not violating the law,” Sheehan said. 

Sheehan said Albany city officials are reviewing the DOJ’s latest request with the city's counsel and will be prepared to respond to it. 

While attending the mayor’s conference in the nation’s capital Wednesday, Sheehan said she was also on a list of mayors who were not invited to a meeting of mayors at the White House.

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Nia Hamm

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