Jackson stands up to Justice Dept., defends anti-racial profiling ordinance

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City of Jackson

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba says the city is in compliance with the Department of Justice on the issue of sanctuary cities and expects to satisfactorily resolve questions posed by federal officials who threaten to pull funding from municipalities that the Trump Administration believes are impeding enforcement of immigration laws.

“In fact, the City of Jackson’s Ordinance explains in great detail the spirit in
which it was created: to protect everyone in Jackson whether legal or undocumented,” Lumumba said in a statement dated Monday. “Meaning our
police officers will investigate, but also protect the rights of all individuals in our great City.”

Lumumba’s statement came almost one week after the U.S. Department of Justice sent a second round of notices to Jackson and 22 other cities, counties and states. The department is demanding documents from these local and state governments that could reveal if they are refusing to share information with the department and other federal immigration agencies.

The department also said it would subpoena those documents if these cities, counties and states do not respond by Feb. 23.

Lumumba this week said the city’s anti-racial profiling ordinance is not in violation of national law, echoing the same sentiment he shared in November when the Justice Department first threatened it would to cut law enforcement funding in Jackson and 28 other cities, counties and states over adopted policies they say may disregard federal immigration law, also known as “sanctuaries” from immigration.

Jackson’s 2010 anti-racial profiling ordinance, which prohibits police officers from asking about suspects’ immigration status during routine traffic stops, has also drawn scrutiny from state leaders who say undocumented immigrants are a costly burden to taxpayers. Gov. Phil Bryant acknowledged the ordinance before signing an anti-sanctuary cities bill into law last March.

The law, then known as Senate Bill 2710, took effect immediately by voiding policies that municipalities, counties and agencies may adopt to limit or prohibit any person from communicating or cooperating with federal agencies to verify or report the immigration status of any person.

The law also voids any policies that grant a person lawful presence or status within the state, whether that is in a county or city, or a university, college, community college or junior college.

Bryant signed the law on the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration would withhold federal criminal justice grants from cities, counties and states that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The order became the subject of a federal court challenge in California, which is pending appeal.

The funding in question is the city’s fiscal year 2016 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, or JAG, award, which allows states and units of local government to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime based on their own state and local needs and conditions, the Department of Justice website says. Mississippi received $1.8 million from the program in fiscal year 2017, records show.