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Bay Area Sanctuary Communities Respond To New Pressure From Feds

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – In the wake of new U.S. Justice Department letters demanding more information about sanctuary policies, officials from California, San Francisco and Sonoma County said Wednesday they believe their governments are in "full compliance" with federal law.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Deputy Sonoma County Counsel Petra Bruggisser also said they will respond to the department's request for documents.

"San Francisco is proud to be a sanctuary city. We're also in full compliance with federal immigration law," Herrera said in a statement.

• ALSO READ: Oakland Mayor Schaaf Calls New Sanctuary Cities Threat 'Un-American'

"What the law requires is narrow, and San Francisco follows the law. It's that simple," the city attorney said.

Bruggisser said, "The county believes that we are in compliance with Section 1373, and we plan to cooperate with the Department of Justice regarding their document request."

The law, known as Section 1373, prohibits local governments from preventing their employees from communicating with federal immigration agents.

California, San Francisco and Sonoma County are among 23 states, cities and counties nationwide that received the letters Wednesday and that are alleged to have sanctuary policies protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Other Bay Area localities on the list are Monterey County and the cities of Berkeley, Fremont and Watsonville.

City of Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said, "We are reviewing the letter. We don't have any further comment at this time."

The letters are a follow-up to earlier warnings the Justice Department sent on Nov. 15 to 29 cities and counties, saying it was concerned they weren't complying with the law.

Compliance with Section 1373 is a condition of Justice Department law enforcement grants to local governments under a program known as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program.

Wednesday's letter says that after reviewing the local government's initial responses, the department "remains concerned" that their policies or laws may violate the law, or be interpreted in a manner inconsistent with it.

The letter asks for all orders and guidance issued to local employees as to whether and how they can communicate with U.S. Justice Department, Homeland Security Department and immigration officials.

It threatens to subpoena the documents if the local governments do not comply. It also warns that the department may seek the return of Byrne grants for the 2016-17 fiscal year or deny the jurisdictions grants in the current fiscal year, which began in October.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement announcing the letters, "I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk.

"Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law," Sessions said.

Herrera said, "This is a request from the federal government about city policies, not for information about specific individuals. We will satisfy the request in a timely fashion."

Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties received the November letter, but were dropped from the list for the follow-up letter.

© Copyright 2018 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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