DOJ Again Threatens Federal Grants to ‘Sanctuary Cities’

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The Justice Department is following through on an executive order to withhold as much as $4.1 billion in federal grants from “sanctuary cities,” generally defined as places where local law enforcement limit their cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement, NPR reports. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ appearance at a White House briefing is a signal that President Trump wants to move on to one of the issues he’s most comfortable talking about — illegal immigration — and to shift the conversation away from health care, after his failure to get the Affordable Care Act repeal through Congress. While there is not a set definition of a “sanctuary” state or city, the Justice Department gives the example of states or cities refusing immigration agents’ requests to hold immigrants who came to the country illegally. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has identified 118 such places. “Such policies cannot continue,” Sessions said. “They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.”

Sessions said that in order to receive federal funds, states and localities must certify they are complying with federal immigration laws. He said DOJ will take steps to “claw back” grants already awarded to noncompliant cities. Several major cities could be affected by the threat, including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. After Trump’s election, mayors in those cities reaffirmed their status as sanctuary cities. After president’s executive order on the issue, San Francisco sued the Trump administration, saying that the orders violated the city’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. The International Association of Chief of Police said it “strongly oppose(s) the use of sanctions to drive policy … The funds provided through the Department of Justice support a wide array of crime fighting, crime prevention and public health initiatives. Penalizing communities by withholding assistance funding to law enforcement agencies and other critical programs is counter-productive to our shared mission of reducing violent crime and keeping our communities safe.”

 

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