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Sessions Takes Aim at ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ Threatens to Cut Law Enforcement Funding

Attorney General Jeff Session’s policy would cut or withhold certain police grants from cities who refuse to comply with immigration policies. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

U.S. cities who refuse to comply with the federal government’s efforts to surveil and deport undocumented immigrants risk losing certain law enforcement grants, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned Monday, March 27.

Signaling the White House’s efforts to bolster enforcement of federal immigration laws, Sessions threatened to revoke law enforcement funding from cities/states that block local police from telling governmental authorities about undocumented immigrants in their custody. He added that states and municipal governments seeking certain law enforcement grants would now be required to prove their compliance with a law barring any official from hiding information on an individual’s citizenship status, The New York Times reported.

“Sanctuary cities” who refuse to cooperate with the policy and continue providing protections to undocumented immigrants will see their law enforcement funding scaled back.

“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they’re doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and to re-think these policies,” Sessions said. “Such policies make their cities and states less safe — public safety as well as national security are at stake — and put them at risk of losing federal dollars.”

The attorney general threatened to withhold as much as $4.1 billion in federal funds, which are administered to states in the form of various grants each year. Naturally, the new policy has rubbed some state and local leaders the wrong way.

Officials from California to New York, Seattle and Washington D.C. have come out in fierce opposition to Session’s law, promising a legal fight to resist the President Donald Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration law enforcement.

“The Trump Administration is pushing an unrealistic and mean spirited executive order,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in tweet late Monday night. “If they want a fight, we will see them in court.”

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman echoed de Blasio’s sentiments, calling Trump’s immigration policies “draconian.”

“As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families,” Schneiderman said in a statement obtained by Atlanta Black Star. “Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and those they bravely serve; yet, again and again, President Trump’s draconian policies only serve to undercut that trust.

“My office will continue to ensure local governments have the tools they need to legally protect their immigrant communities — and we won’t stop fighting to beat back President Trump’s un-American immigration policies,” he continued.

In Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray argued that his city’s “welcoming” policies are a mode to helping the local community “by assisting residents on the path to citizenship and warmly integrating immigrant schoolchildren into our classrooms.” Leaders in other cities like San Francisco and Chicago also are pushing back against the president’s immigration policies.

On Monday, Sessions contended that his policy wouldn’t change the status quo. In fact, he said it was a continuation of an Obama-era regulation forbidding constraints on the ability of police and/or sheriffs from sharing information with federal authorities on the immigration status of detainees. The New York Times reported that the law doesn’t force law enforcement officials to hand over pertinent information to government authorities but is aimed at discouraging cities from obstructing such talks.

The difference here is that the Obama-era policy gave cities/states that refused to comply with the law a sufficient amount of time to modify their policy. Session’s law would promptly roll back law enforcement funding. It’s unclear whether grants have been blocked as of yet, however.

The former Alabama senator suggested the new policy could be the administration’s first step at enacting more-stringent protocols on federal funding in the future.

“We believe that grants in the future could be issued that have additional requirements, as every grant that’s being issued in America today usually has requirements that if you qualify for this grant, you have to meet certain [criteria],” Sessions said. “So, we’ll be looking at that in the future and we’ll continue to pursue it.

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