City of Lawrence Pushes Back Against Trump Administration’s Defunding Threat

City of Lawrence Pushes Back Against Trump Administration’s Defunding Threat

The City of Lawrence today responded forcefully to the Trump Administration’s recent threat to deny federal grant monies to the City based on its Trust Ordinance, which seeks to promote public confidence in law enforcement agencies by assuring all residents that their citizenship or immigration status have no bearing on their treatment by local police.

On November 15, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to Lawrence’s Police Chief questioning whether the Trust Ordinance is consistent with federal law and giving the City a deadline of this week to respond.  Similar letters have been sent by the Department of Justice to more than thirty cities, counties and states across America that it contends may be out of compliance with laws mandating local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.  In its response letter filed today, the City called the Department of Justice’s concerns “unfounded” and re-asserted its longstanding position that its Trust Ordinance is fully consistent with federal law.

“Our Trust Ordinance simply declares that enforcement of federal immigration law is generally beyond the purview of the City,” said Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera.  “There is nothing in the Ordinance, or in any of our practices, that runs afoul of federal law in any way.”  Mayor Rivera noted that the Trust Ordinance promotes public safety, stating that if police become entangled in federal immigration enforcement, then residents may become fearful of reporting crime or cooperating with police.  He cited examples of women who experience domestic abuse and individuals who witness crimes.  “We want those individuals – like all Lawrence residents – to feel secure in approaching law enforcement,” added Mayor Rivera.

Today’s letter was filed on behalf of the City by lawyers from Goodwin LLP and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, who represent Lawrence and the City of Chelsea pro bono in a pending federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of an earlier Executive Order that purported to withdraw federal funding from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions.”  In April 2017, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction against the Executive Order, barring the Trump Administration from enforcing it.  That injunction was made permanent last month.

Inez Friedman-Boyce of Goodwin LLP called the Trump Administration’s continuing threats to Lawrence and other similar cities “an unprecedented and unconstitutional encroachment on the lawful exercise of local authority.”

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee saidthe federal government cannot commandeer local officials to enforce the federal government’s unconstitutional immigration policies. Local officials will not be bullied into doing the federal government’s illegal bidding. At the Lawyers’ Committee, we stand ready to defend and protect children and families in our communities.”


2017-12-06 Letter from Friedman Boyce to Hanson