ALBANY - Attorneys general from five states and Washington D.C. are coordinating against President Trump's push to punish cities that decline to assist federal immigration enforcers.
The six Democrats, led by Eric Schneiderman of New York, have combined on a legal analysis that contends such "sanctuary cities" can limit their involvement in immigration enforcement efforts without flouting federal law.
Attorneys general from California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington state signed on to the report, along with Schneiderman and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine.
The analysis, obtained by the USA TODAY Network's Albany Bureau, is set to be released Wednesday.
"Federal law does not compel state and local governments and (law-enforcement agencies) to participate in federal civil immigration functions," the report reads. "Nor could it under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
"Sanctuary cities" is a widely used term that refers to local governments that refuse to cooperate -- or limit their cooperation -- with federal immigration officials.
At least 300 local governments across the country have taken some steps to limit cooperation, including Rochester, Kingston, White Plains and New York City in the Empire State.
Trump signed an executive order Jan. 25 that sought to block federal funding for such jurisdictions, claiming they "willfully violate Federal law" and "have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic."
A federal judge in California blocked much of the order last month, calling it "coercive" and ruling Trump's attempt to withhold all federal funding for such cities violates constitutional principles.
The report from the attorneys general focuses heavily on detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which can be issued to hold an immigrant 48 hours after they would be otherwise released if there's probable cause they are in the country illegally.
The attorneys make the case that local law-enforcement agencies have the right to refuse such requests, pointing in part to the Tenth Amendment, which delegates all powers to states that aren't specifically given to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution.
They also claim local governments could open themselves up to lawsuits for holding someone in custody too long if there's not probable cause.
In a statement, Schneiderman called the report an "unprecedented statement by top law enforcement officials across the country."
“Local police departments should not and cannot be forced to shatter the trust and credibility they’ve built with their communities just to advance President Trump’s radical deportation agenda," he said.
Trump's administration has defended the order, vowing to continue the legal battle.
Supporters of the order say "sanctuary cities" are potentially threatening public safety by freeing immigrants who are in the country illegally and are taken into custody.
"We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," Trump's order reads.
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