The Trump administration has fired an opening salvo in its promised crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, asking nine jurisdictions for proof that they are cooperating with immigration enforcement, and warning they are at risk of losing federal grants, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Justice Department sent letters to the California Board of State and Community Corrections, as well as officials in Cook County, Il., Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will defend its policies against “fearmongering” by the Trump administration.
The emerging dispute between communities and the Trump administration is already in the courts, and the letters may bolster the administration’s case. President Trump repeatedly vowed to cut all federal funds to sanctuary cities during last year’s campaign, but it’s doubtful Congress would permit that. The administration has only threatened to cut off grants administered by the Justice Department. The amount at risk is a total of $4.1 billion in federal grants to governments and law enforcement agencies across the nation. The California Board of State and Community Corrections received $20 million last year from the Justice Department program identified in the letter. The state distributed the money to 32 counties and the state prison agency. More than 150 communities have laws or policies that restrict the ability of police and jails to hand over people who in the U.S. illegally to federal immigration officers. The nine were chosen because they were named in a Justice Department review last year.