Leahy Slams Attorney General Sessions For Threatening Public Safety Funding To Burlington And The State Of Vermont, Over The Trump Administration’s Misguided Anti-Immigrant Policies

[(WEDNESDAY, Nov. 15, 2017) – This afternoon (Wednesday), Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department notified the State of Vermont and the City of Burlington that the Department believes they have laws, policies or practices that violate 8 U.S.C. 1373, a federal statute that promotes information-sharing related to immigration enforcement.  In all, the Department cited 29 jurisdictions, sometimes derided as “sanctuary cities,” that are being threatened with the withholding of funds.  Specifically, the Department is questioning whether the State of Vermont and the City of Burlington comply with requirements of the fiscal years 2016 and 2017 Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG).  In all, the Department threatened 29 jurisdictions, sometimes derided as “sanctuary cities,” with the withholding of Byrne JAG funds.  The State of Vermont and the City of Burlington have until December 8, 2017, to submit a response to the Department that addresses whether they have laws, policies or practices that violate this statute.  Byrne JAG is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local governments, including law enforcement agencies.  This program uses a congressionally mandated formula, as laid out by Congress.  In fiscal year 2016, the State of Vermont received $507,892 and the City of Burlington received $39,945.  For fiscal year 2017, Vermont’s allocation is $476,496, and Burlington’s is $38,845, but the Justice Department is holding up all Byrne JAG grants for the entire nation.

Following is a comment on this by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).  Leahy is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee:]

“These moves against the State of Vermont and the City of Burlington by Attorney General Sessions are shameful.  I strongly believe that police chiefs and local leaders should decide what state and local policies are necessary and best to keep their communities safe — not an Attorney General who is attempting to extort immigration reform by cutting off vital public safety dollars to local communities and their residents.

“The Attorney General’s decision puts public safety at risk by delaying nearly $700 million in Byrne JAG, SCAAP, COPS Hiring, and Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin Task Forces funding for law enforcement agencies across the country.  This only serves to punish local law enforcement agencies and victims of domestic and sexual violence and other violent crimes.  Frankly, this funding should have been out the door months ago from the Justice Department, and these delays will jeopardize local efforts to fight crime, including criminal gang activity, and to combat heroin trafficking.  Just today a federal judge enjoined the Justice Department from pursuing these very policies.  These actions make one thing clear:  In their disgraceful and unending efforts to villainize and scapegoat immigrants, President Trump and Attorney General Sessions are willing to make our communities less safe and to abandon victims of crime.”

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