Philly DA joins challenge to federal immigration enforcement policy

Philadelphia's district attorney is among dozens of prosecutors and law enforcement officers across the country backing Los Angeles in its fight with federal authorities over avoiding  entanglement in a nationwide  immigration crackdown.

District Attorney Lawrence Krasner is among 33 former and current officials with experience on the front line of the justice system who have signed on to an amicus brief, or friend of the court, in support of the city.

Los Angeles is suing the Department of Justice over a new policy where cities are rewarded points, and given preferential treatment over the awarding of grants, if they work closely with federal agencies to track down undocumented immigrants.

"From Larry's perspective, the Department of Justice policies undermine community policing," Ben Waxman, the DA's communications director, told Keystone Business News. "A victim or witness needs to feel safe."

District Attorney Lawrence Krasner   Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

Krasner is a member of the Fair and Just Prosecution Group, formed last November by newly elected prosecutors with a mission statement to promote "a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility."

"We are committed to a progressive vision of criminal justice and equal justice," Waxman said on behalf of Krasner. "There is a growing movement of prosecutors trying to change the face of justice."

A key reason the district attorney has joined this amicus brief is because of his commitment to a progressive-minded attitude, Waxman said, adding that "Los Angeles has been a pioneer on issues relating to immigration, within their police department and other agencies."

Prosecutors and police chiefs are concerned about the aggressive enforcement tactics of ICE agents, including now entering courts in search of undocumented immigrants.

The suit challenges the Department of Justice's  decision to show preferential treatment in awarding law enforcement grants to those cities that commit to partnering closely on detaining immigrants.

Cities have been told they will given extra points, and easier access to grants, if they hold undocumented immigrants for at least 48 hours to allow federal agents access to them. This includes those picked up for minor offenses, including driving offenses.

The brief warns that the Justice Department’s new policy could result in a surge of crime against undocumented immigrants and would discourage them from cooperating as witnesses in criminal investigations.

The amicus brief was organized by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), and Fair and Just Prosecution.

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