Response to DOJ’s Latest Threat to Defund Sanctuary Cities

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and Goodwin LLP represent the cities of Lawrence and Chelsea in Massachusetts in litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Trump Administration’s efforts to defund sanctuary cities.

Today’s announcement from the Department of Justice represents an escalation in the federal government’s ongoing efforts to encroach upon the lawful exercise of local and state authority. The federal government’s latest threats amount to unconstitutional coercion and violate well-established Constitutional rights protected under the 10th Amendment.

Local officials have broad discretion to create and implement policies that meet the public safety needs of their residents. The City of Lawrence has already responded forcefully to the Trump Administration threats 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. Additionally, federal courts across the country have repeatedly struck down the federal government’s abuse of power and unconstitutional overreach.

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera issued the enclosed statement (see below).

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 for Civil Rights and Economic Justice said: “At the Lawyers’ Committee, we stand ready to defend and protect children and families in our communities. The 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.”

This development in the sanctuary cities front was featured in the Boston Globe, WBUR, and the Eagle Tribune.

The letter from the Department of Justice to the City of Lawrence — and the City’s latest statement — appear below.

2018-1-24 Mayor Rivera Statement on DOJ
DOJ Letter to Lawrence on Jan 24, 2018