Sanctuary City Case
The City of Jackson has a city regulation that prohibits police officers from asking for information about the immigration status of someone they arrest. Policies like that caught the attention of the Trump Administration in late 2017. The administration’s Department of Justice issued a letter to Jackson expressing concern that Jackson had sanctuary city policies. Jackson was one of just 29 jurisdictions sent a letter like this. Other sanctuary cities receiving letters like this included San Francisco and Berkeley.
Questions about Jackson’s sanctuary policies prompted the Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI) to ask, what happens when the Jackson Police Department receives a letter from the federal government telling them to hold an arrested illegal immigrant until the immigrant can be deported? Does Jackson hold the illegal immigrant or ignore the request?
To obtain an answer to that question, MJI filed a public records request with Jackson in January 2018. The request asked Jackson to tell what it did with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. ICE detainers are letters that ICE sends to local law enforcement when ICE believes local police have arrested someone who is in the country illegally. MJI also asked for all records related to anyone who was arrested and the subject of an ICE detainer.
The Jackson Police Department responded by stating they did not keep or maintain ICE detainers. They provided no records in response to the complaint. Jackson is required by public records laws to keep records like ICE detainers.
MJI then filed a complaint at the Mississippi Ethics Commission to determine exactly what happens with illegal immigrants arrested in Jackson and to ensure that ICE detainers were not illegally being destroyed. MJI’s complaint at the Mississippi Ethics Commission asked Jackson to stop destroying ICE detainers and to produce information about how it has treated detainers. It also asked for fines to be levied against city officials if they broke the law.
On July 6, 2018, the Ethics Commission ruled that the matter was not in their jurisdiction.