The Justice Department sent letters to eight cities Friday that threaten to withhold federal grant money if they don’t demonstrate cooperation with immigration enforcement.
President Donald Trump has promised to force “sanctuary cities” to follow the federal government’s lead on enforcement of immigration laws. Hundreds of jurisdictions across the U.S. limit to varying degrees their cooperation with federal authorities.
The letters were sent to New York City, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Sacramento, as well as Cook County, Ill. The DOJ asked these local governments to provide documentation that they’re complying with a federal law that requires information-sharing between local, state and federal authorities regarding citizenship and immigration status.
If the nine jurisdictions don’t present documentation of compliance by June 30, the DOJ said it may withhold or terminate funds under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which funds state and local criminal justice programs.
The localities may find it relatively easy to comply with the information-sharing requirement, which was also flagged in a Trump executive order that dealt with sanctuary jurisdictions. David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration lawyer and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, called it “a very narrow provision” of immigration law.
The letters don’t address the most contentious sanctuary policy — the practice of some cities to ignore requests by the federal government to hold suspected undocumented immigrants for 48 hours beyond their release time.
Nisha Agarwal, commissioner for the New York Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, told reporters Friday that the letter was “very similar” to one the office received last year under the Obama administration.
Agarwal reiterated the city’s position that it could turn to litigation if the federal government moved to yank funding over immigration policies. “We’re not ready to file papers tomorrow, but if they do come after our funding in a major way, as they’ve sort of threatened to do, we’re certainly ready to fight back,” she said.
In a related announcement, the DOJ took a swing at New York City, saying it “continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.”
At least five localities have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over the use of sanctuary policies.
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.