Sessions Issues Memo Clarifying DOJ Stance On Sanctuary Cities

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Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions laid out the Department of Justice’s stance on sanctuary cities in a memo Monday, saying the agency will tailor its grants to encourage cities to comply with the administration’s agenda.

An executive order issued by President Trump that called for funding to sanctuary jurisdictions to be eliminated was blocked from enforcement by a federal judge in San Francisco. The judge, William Orrick, said in his April decision that the executive order was too vague, as it states these jurisdictions “are not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”

Sessions wrote in his memo that he has determined that the executive order applies “solely to federal grants administered by the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security, and not to other sources of federal funding.” The attorney general said that the order does not impose any conditions that violate the Constitution or existing laws.

Judge Orrick also said in his decision that the executive order and statements by the administration could lead one to believe that refusing to comply with an immigration detainer would make a city a sanctuary jurisdiction. Sessions, however, wrote that the DOJ’s stance is that non compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 makes a jurisdiction a sanctuary city.

This law prohibits jurisdictions from denying or restricting in any way the federal government’s access to an individual’s immigration status. Few cities do this, and many liberal mayors expressed relief in April that this was the way the federal government would define sanctuary cities.

The memo did express that the DOJ plans on tailoring grants to encourage cities to “promote a lawful system of immigration.” This would be akin to the Obama administration using a “carrot, not stick” to encourage cities to implement community policing.

Sessions said after Orrick’s decision that the DOJ will contest the decision. However, an appeals hearing has yet to be scheduled.