Justice Department threatens several 'sanctuary cities' with loss of grant money

Posted April 23, 2017

And it said, in a reference to comments from Santa Cruz police after a raid on members of the Salvadoran street gang MS-13 in the Bay Area, "city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next".

The DOJ statement released Friday warning nine USA cities that they were risking losing federal grants for not complying with federal immigration law.

The letters give the jurisdictions until June 30 to prove that they are compliant with 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, a 1996 federal law that prohibits local governments from restricting communication with the feds about the immigration status of inmates.

The same letter from the Justice Department was sent to officials in Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois.

Some of the localities remain defiant, despite risking the loss of money that police agencies use to pay for everything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

"There's a lot of political talk, but there's no legal analysis", Butterworth said.

Earlier this week, Justice Department veterans warned that a tough approach to jurisdictions that refuse to follow federal immigration and marijuana laws could hurt community partnerships.

A spokeswoman for Philadelphia's mayor says she believes the city is in compliance with federal law on sharing immigration information with federal authorities.

"Unfortunately, the Mayor's policies are hamstringing the courageous NYPD officers that protect the city, and only serve to endanger the lives of the hard working men and women of the NYPD who care more about keeping their city and country safe than they do about city hall politics", the spokesperson said.

"We never proclaimed to be a sanctuary community before then, and we haven't since", Hernandez said. New York City's mayor and Sessions are battling over a Department of Justice statement accusing the city of being "soft on crime".

It's the first concrete action the federal government has taken to withhold funds since President Trump signed his executive order targeting sanctuary cities in January.

All were singled out by the Justice Department's Inspector General past year during the Obama Administration.

New York City's lone Congressional Republican, Representative Dan Donovan, criticized the practices of sanctuary cities, but also wrote that the NYPD made New York the safest big city in America.

The metropolitan police department could lose $975,000 in federal grants if the Justice Department decides it isn't cooperating.

The dollar amounts for the grants in question are relatively small compared with the overall budgets of the governments that received the letters.

Cook County, Illinois - the broader area which includes Chicago and about half of its metropolitan area - also received a warning, even though it did not get money from the Justice Department past year.

"People are scared, and because of that, they're less willing to report crime", Butterworth added. Doña Ana, Valencia and San Juan counties also received funding, among others. But if local authorities won't help, he says, immigration agents will need to look wherever they can, including neighborhoods.

"The sheriff of Milwaukee County has always shared information, so if that's the concern, again, I'm puzzled why Milwaukee is on their radar", Chisholm said.

"Trump had said, 'We're going to cut off all money to the sanctuary cities, ' but yet they haven't actually defined what sanctuary cities are", said Robinson, a criminology professor at George Mason University in Virginia.