In a surprise move on Thursday, the Obama Justice Department adopted new policies that will deny federal law enforcement grants to some “sanctuary cities.”
According to guidance issued by the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, cities that refuse to honor Section 1373 of the United States Code will no longer be eligible for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG) and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) grants.
Section 1373 prohibits “government entities and officials from taking action to prohibit or in any way restrict the maintenance or intergovernmental exchange of [immigration status] information, including through written or unwritten policies or practices.”
Some cites have so-called “sanctuary” policies on the books that prohibit local law enforcement agencies from providing such information to federal immigration agencies.
The policies entered the national spotlight last year after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was murdered in San Francisco by an illegal alien. The killer was released by San Francisco’s sheriff’s department last April. Because of its sanctuary policies, the agency refused to honor a detainer request for the illegal alien issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
More than $3.4 billion in funding has been given to states and cities in the past five years, Texas Rep. John Culberson said in a statement announcing the Justice Department’s updated guidance.
The Republican, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, spurred the Justice Department’s move.
On Feb. 1, he sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging the Justice Department to cut off funding to locales that refuse to comply with Section 1373.
In addition to cutting off law enforcement grant funding for cities out of compliance with the law, local governments must also make an effort to inform employees of the updated guidance.
“Personnel must be informed…federal law does not allow any government entity or official to prohibit the sending or receiving of information about an individual’s citizenship or immigration status with any federal, state or local government entity and officials,” reads OJP’s ruling.
The update also clarifies that state governments are not allowed to provide subgrants to cities that violate Section 1373.
Culberson touted the Justice Department’s move.
“State and local governments must now choose between receiving federal law enforcement grant money or protecting dangerous criminal illegal aliens. They can no longer do both,” he said in a statement.
“Sanctuary cities are a hub for illegal aliens and criminal activity, and we’ve seen the tragic results of these policies time and time again,” he added.
“It has been more than a year since Kate Steinle was murdered at the hands of a criminal illegal alien who intentionally sought out shelter in San Francisco due to the city’s sanctuary policies. This violence and suffering is intolerable and completely preventable.”
The Justice Department’s update comes a day after Senate Democrats knocked down a bill written in response to Steinle’s murder.
Known as “Kate’s Law,” the bill would have enforced mandatory five-year prison sentences for illegal aliens who illegally re-enter the U.S. more than two times or those who have been convicted of violent crimes who do the same.
Despite the change, the Obama administration is not likely to cut off other funding to sanctuary cities.
The White House is actively opposing another the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, a Republican-backed bill which would cut federal economic development and community block grants to sanctuary jurisdictions. (RELATED: White House: Anti-Sanctuary City Law Would Impede Efforts To Enforce The Nation’s Immigration Laws)
The White House has argued that the bill would “deny funding for cities to implement a wide range of community development, infrastructure, and housing activities and provide vital public services, including meals to the elderly and affordable child care for low-income, working families.”