Wyden, Merkley: Withholding DOJ grants threatens safety

WASHINGTON – Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Monday denounced the announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration would begin withholding Department of Justice grants from “sanctuary cities” and counties.

Their announcement said, “Sanctuary cities and counties are those that choose not to deputize their local law enforcement as federal immigration agents, to improve policing and safety by building trust and cooperation with the local community.”

While questions remain about the details of how the Department of Justice plans to implement this policy and whether specific Oregon communities will be affected, the senators expressed deep concern about the spirit behind the new policy.

“I strongly oppose Sessions’ new policy,” Merkley said. “While we are not yet sure how this new policy will affect Oregon communities, the Sessions policy would deeply undermine law enforcement and public safety, resulting in less safety in our communities rather than more.

“To threaten to strip cities anywhere in America of assistance for domestic violence survivors and law enforcement is a bad policy that will hurt not just the strength of our public safety, but also crime victims.”

Wyden said, “Immigrants and refugees should not be cavalierly lumped in as being synonymous with criminals. The fact that the administration seems to do so is as un-American as it gets. Punishing communities like Portland because they refuse to deputize their police to federal bureaucrats makes us less safe, not safer.”

Grants that local communities receive from the Department of Justice primarily go to support law enforcement and public safety. Those grants include, among others:

·       25 grant programs created by the Violence Against Women Act and administered by the Office on Violence Against Women to combat and reduce sexual and domestic violence;

·       Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants to support local law enforcement in efforts to build community relationships;

·       The Violent Gang and Gun Crime Reduction Program to reduce gang and gun violence; and

·       Grants to combat and intervene against opioid addiction.