De Blasio administration dismisses sanctuary city warning from Department of Justice

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is brushing off a letter from Department of Justice officials warning that the city could lose millions in federal funding if local law enforcement does not begin to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The Department of Justice sent the warning letter to nine so-called sanctuary jurisdictions around the country on Friday, including New York City and Sacramento in California.

In its letter, the department requests New York City provide documentation by June 3 showing that it is in compliance with a 1996 federal law stating that local governments may not interfere with immigration officials when requesting an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.

“Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future [Office of Justice Programs] grants, sub grants or other actions,” Alan Hanson, acting assistant attorney general, writes in the letter.

Both President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to crack down on sanctuary cities, painting the jurisdictions as obstructionist local governments hampering federal immigration officials’ efforts by harboring undocumented residents in their cities.

In recent months, de Blasio has said the city has no intention of cooperating with federal immigration authorities to enforce immigration law, identify undocumented residents or help detain them. The mayor has also said the city is prepared to challenge Trump’s directives in court.

Seth Stein, a spokesperson for de Blasio, accused Trump administration officials of relying on inaccurate data to target immigrant-friendly cities.

“This is nothing new. This grandstanding shows how out of touch the Trump administration is with reality,” Stein said in a statement. “Contrary to their alternative facts, New York is the safest big city in the country, with crime at record lows in large part because we have policies in place to encourage cooperation between NYPD and immigrant communities.”

Administration officials confirmed the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice received the letter Friday, which was addressed to MOCJ director Elizabeth Glazer.

The department’s letter came a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his department would push against sanctuary cities that do not work with the federal government to deport undocumented immigrants who might come in contact with local law enforcement.

“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and to rethink these policies,” Sessions during a White House briefing last month. “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 letters were sent to nine localities specifically identified in a Justice Department inspector general report as having rules or laws that interfere with federal law enforcement’s ability to communicate with immigration officials specifically about the status of people in their custody.

In the last three years, the New York City Council has passed legislation to remove Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from city jails and Rikers Island and to severely roll back rules that require the city to honor immigration detainer requests.

DOJ’s letters can be read here.

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