Efforts to Undermine Sanctuary Cities

In the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ramped up raids, arrests, and deportation proceedings across the country. Some cities have welcomed ICE and CBP’s activities, while others have employed sanctuary policies to resist federal law enforcement’s immigration crackdown. Trump administration officials have praised cities that cooperate with ICE and CBP and condemned those that don’t—and may have even coordinated with politically-friendly cities and states to undermine sanctuary policies.

What We’re Seeking:

  • Communications between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Florida officials, including Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Attorney General’s office, related to sanctuary cities
  • Communications between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including ICE, and the Florida Attorney General’s Office related to sanctuary cities
  • Communications among DHS, ICE, and CBP related to federal or state-specific sanctuary policies
  • Communications between DOJ and DHS officials and the governors of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Maine, Arizona, Texas, Massachusetts, and Maryland regarding immigration, sanctuary cities, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program

Background:

ICE and CBP enforcement activities have skyrocketed in the first year of the Trump administration. ICE has conducted surprise sweeps in communities across the country, often arresting hundreds of undocumented immigrants in a single raid. ICE arrests rose more than 40 percent between 2016 and 2017, and the agency has stopped prioritizing undocumented immigrants with criminal records. CBP has similarly increased its reach, carrying out random searches in non-border areas.

President Trump and some of his cabinet have been vocal in expressing their support for cities that cooperate with ICE and CBP. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an August 2017 news conference in Miami, praised the city’s mayor for reversing sanctuary policies and cooperating with ICE and CBP. Conversely, Sessions has threatened to withhold millions of dollars in federal funding from cities that resist federal immigration crackdowns.

In January 2018, five months after Sessions’ Miami speech, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill banning sanctuary policies. The bill coincided with an increase in ICE and CBP activities in Florida, including ICE raids in 7-Eleven stores in Orlando and Fort Myers and a CBP raid on a Greyhound bus, in which agents boarded the bus, demanded identification from all passengers, and arrested a woman who refused to comply.

American Oversight is seeking to find out whether officials in Florida and other states have coordinated with federal law enforcement agencies to target undocumented immigrants—and whether officials are using Florida as a testing ground for expanded immigration crackdowns nationwide.