Clark County Rejects ‘Sanctuary County’ Label in Letter to Justice Department

Clark County sharply rebuked the suggestion that the Las Vegas Metro Police Department is out of compliance with federal immigration laws and the county is acting as a so-called sanctuary jurisdiction in a letter late last month to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The county attorney wrote in a May 30 letter, obtained by The Nevada Independent, that the department’s law enforcement and detention activities are in compliance with federal law requiring communication between local law enforcement and immigration authorities and that there are “no impediments to the exchange of information regarding citizenship and immigration status” between federal, state and local entities in any practices and procedures of the county. The letter came in response to an April request from the Justice Department that the county provide proof it is following federal immigration laws or risk losing federal grant funding.

The department has sought to walk a fine line over the past few months amid efforts by President Donald Trump to mandate compliance with federal immigration authorities through a January executive order and attempts by Democratic lawmakers in Nevada to restrict the law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal authorities or inquire about individuals’ immigration status. Officials have maintained that they want to strike a balance between protecting public safety and ensuring all members of the community feel comfortable coming forward to report crimes.

Plus, Metro has raised concerns that any “sanctuary” label could jeopardize the federal funding they receive from the Justice Department, about $9 million annually out of a $550 million budget for fiscal year 2016-17. Those grants include the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which goes toward a host of state and local law enforcement expenses, and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which reimburses state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating immigrants in the country without authorization.

In a May 8 legal opinion attached to the letter, Metro said that neither the state of Nevada, Clark County nor the city of Las Vegas has enacted any law restricting the department from communicating with Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials about any individual’s citizenship status.