PolitiFact: Are sanctuary city policies a violation of federal law?

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 2:56 PM EDT

Throughout the debate on immigration reform and legislation, objections have been raised over so-called "sanctuary cities," which are generally referred to as cities who may not choose to actively enforce federal immigration laws.

During a recent press briefing, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited a Department of Justice memo that supported his position.  Sessions said this:

"Just last May, the Department of Justice Inspector General found that these sanctuary city policies also violate federal law."

Our partners at PolitiFact Florida took a look at this claim to see if it was accurate.  PolitiFact reporter Allison Graves says that Sessions' claim rates MOSTLY FALSE on the Truth-O-Meter.  Graves says that Sessions was extrapolating more out of the memo than what was actually there.

"We took a look at the memo in question," said Graves.  "What we found was that the Department of Justice Inspector General issued the memo in 2016, but the directive of the memo was more to raise questions, and not necessarily make a legal determination, which is what Sessions is claiming, which is an exaggeration."

The memo was also shown to immigration law experts.  "After we showed the memo to five immigration law experts, they came back with essentially the same opinion," said Graves.  "They looked at the memo and saw questions about policies, but nothing in the memo actually says that sanctuary city policies are in direct violation of a federal law."

Because Sessions exaggerated the contents of the memo, his claim earns a MOSTLY FALSE rating on PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter.

 

SOURCES: Sanctuary city policies and federal law

  • PolitiFact ruling
  • Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks on Sanctuary Jurisdictions, March 27, 2017
  • Email exchange, Justice Department press office, March 27, 2017
  • Office of the Inspector General, Memo on jurisdictions and Section 1373 compliance, May 31, 2016
  • PolitiFact, Trump-O-Meter, Cancel all funding of sanctuary cities
  • Email interview, Hiroshi Motomura, a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, March 28, 2017
  • Email interview, Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, March 28, 2017
  • Email interview, Gabriel (Jack) Chin, a professor and director of clinical legal education at the University of California-Davis law school, March 28, 2017
  • Phone interview, Margo Schlanger, a law professor at the University of Michigan, March 28, 2017
  • Email interview, Huyen Pham, a law professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, March 29, 2017