Sessions Delivers Ultimatum To Four Sanctuary Cities

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Department of Justice on Thursday singled out four cities and a major county for allegedly failing to comply with a key federal immigration law, putting their eligibility to receive certain federal grants in jeopardy.

New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Cook County, which includes Chicago and its near suburbs, were found to be in potential violation of 8 USC 1373, a federal statute that bars local jurisdictions from limiting communication with the federal authorities about a person’s immigration status.

The jurisdictions have until Oct. 27 to provide “additional evidence” that their laws and policies do not run afoul of the statute or face the possibility of losing federal law enforcement grants.

“Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions in April sent letters to seven jurisdictions, asking them to show how they were compliance with the law and thus eligible to receive federal grants. Of the seven, DOJ cleared Miami-Dade County, Fla., and Clark County, Nev., saying that there was “no evidence” they were out of compliance with Section 1373.

Milwaukee County and the State of Connecticut, which did not receive letters in the initial review, were also found to be compliant.

The Trump administration has sought to punish sanctuary cities since January, when it issued an executive order to pull federal funding from any jurisdiction that limited cooperation with immigration authorities. That order was blocked by a nationwide judicial injunction in April.

Sessions subsequently issued a memo that limited the categories of federal funding that would be in jeopardy to DOJ or Department of Homeland Security grants. (RELATED: Sessions Remains Skeptical About Cities’ Immigration Law Claims)

The sanctuary cities identified in the DOJ’s review say they cooperate with federal immigration authorities where required by federal law. Several mayors, including Bill de Blasio of New York and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, have pushed back against Session’s crackdown, initiating lawsuits aimed at stopping the DOJ from withholding law enforcement grants.

The latest dispute stems from an order Sessions issued in July that requires jurisdictions to honor federal immigration detention requests in order to be eligible for certain justice assistance grants. In response, Chicago sued the DOJ, asserting that the grant guidelines would “federalize” local law enforcement and force police to violate the constitutional rights of alien jail inmates.

In September, a federal judge in Chicago enjoined Sessions’ order nationwide, blocking the directive from taking effect while the courts evaluate the case.

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