Justice Dept threatens sanctuary cities in immigration fight

A woman shouts slogans and holds a placard during a rally in downtown against President Donald Trump's ICE and deportation programs in San Francisco

The Trump administration intensified its effort to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities, sending letters Friday to nine jurisdictions threatening to withhold grant money unless they document cooperation.

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.

Friday's letters warn officials they must provide proof from an attorney that they are following the law or risk losing thousands of dollars in federal grant money that police agencies use to pay for anything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

Still, if the jurisdictions fail to prove they are in full compliance, they could lose the Office of Justice Programs Byrne JAG grant, which provides funding for personnel, training, and equipment, among other things.

Letters were also sent to officials in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee and Cook County, Illinois, and at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned the administration will punish communities that won't cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the US illegally. money.

"When people are afraid to report crimes or engage with law enforcement because of immigration status, the safety of our communities is placed at risk". Cook County, Illinois also received a warning, even though it did not get money from the Justice Department previous year. To argue otherwise, as the U.S. Justice Department has done, "demonstrates a willful disregard of the facts", O'Neill said.

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Later, Police Commissioner James O'Neill issued a statement pointing out that past year, NY experienced fewer shootings than since the city had started keeping records.

"We don't think there's a problem", he said.

New Orleans police have no means or authority to enforce immigration laws or hold someone suspected of violating them, he said.

Federal courts have ruled that the federal government can only cut funding to sanctuary cities if programs are directly related to immigration, including a Supreme Court ruling that funding can only be withheld if it is relevant "to the federal interest in the project". The federal agency then has 48 hours to take the detainees into custody.

A number of sanctuary cities have sued over the executive order.

A Justice Department statement accompanying the letters also claimed that illegal immigration into the U.S. has served to increase crime these cities. "My far greater concern is the proactive dissemination of misinformation, fear, and intolerance", said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

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