- Feb 10, 2005
- Reaction score
- Montgomery, Al
Law enforcement agencies in Alabama began receiving letters Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Justice cautioning them not to infringe on people's constitutional rights when enforcing the state's immigration law.
The letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, is being sent to all sheriff's offices and police departments in the state that receive federal funds, Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said.
Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall and Autauga County Sheriff Herbie Johnson both said they have received copies of the letter.
Montgomery Public Safety Department spokeswoman Martha Earnhardt said the Montgomery Police Department had not yet received the letter.
The letter warns law enforcement agencies that the federal government could terminate federal funds or file lawsuits against agencies that violate civil rights laws.
The letter also states that federal officials might request records from the agencies, including training materials related to the immigration law.
Both Johnson and Marshall bristled at the tone of the letter, which they said came across as threatening.
Marshall said the Sheriff's Office intention is not to target a group of people but to continue enforcing the law as they always have.
"If someone is breaking the law, they are breaking the law," Marshall said.
Johnson, who has been sheriff for 21 years, said he knows by now what he can and can't do as a law enforcement officer.
"It is a disturbing letter to get from an assistant attorney general," Johnson said.
At any rate, he said, the immigration law has faced a number of challenges, some of which remain unresolved.
When the dust settles on those challenges, he said, the Sheriff's Office will "do what is appropriate."
Johnson also said that losing federal funding wouldn't necessarily be that big of a deal for the Autauga County Sheriff's Office.
"I bet you in 21 years, I haven't gotten $25,000 in grants (from the federal government)," Johnson said.