The Justice Department is ramping up efforts to force so-called “sanctuary cities” to comply with federal law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo giving 29 jurisdictions until December 8 to prove their compliance, or lose federal funding.
“Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents. We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with Section 1373, but also to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process criminal aliens.”
Section 1373 is a federal statute regulating local cooperation with federal immigration officials. Compliance with 8 US Code Section 1373 is required before the DOJ can disburse the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding.
JAG grants are the state, local, and tribal authorities’ largest source of federal funding for criminal justice. Sanctuary jurisdictions received $32.7 million in these grants in 2016, reported the conservative Heritage Foundation, citing DOJ records.
Thirteen of the jurisdictions that received the compliance letters are in California: Berkeley, Los Angeles, Fremont, Santa Ana, Watsonville, the city and county of San Francisco, and the counties of Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Sonoma and Monterey.
California declared itself a “sanctuary state” last month, when Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act (Senate Bill 54) protecting an estimated 2.3 million immigrants living in the state illegally. California state authorities were not included in this batch of DOJ compliance letters. State governments of Vermont, Illinois and Oregon were, however.
Other jurisdictions the DOJ has put on notice are: Bernalillo County, New Mexico; Burlington, Vermont; city and county of Denver, Colorado; Jackson, Mississippi; Seattle and King County, Washington; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Louisville metropolitan area in Kentucky; Newark and Middlesex in New Jersey; West Palm Beach, Florida; Multnomah County, Oregon; Albany, New York; and the District of Columbia.
This is the second round of compliance letters the DOJ announced this fall. Five jurisdictions were put on notice in October, including Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois.
The DOJ has been threatening to withhold funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions for months, with Sessions declaring their policies erode the rule of law and endanger public safety. Several jurisdictions have pushed back, with Chicago suing the government in August for “unconstitutional” immigration enforcement.
Other cities and counties have responded by complying with federal policies. In August, Sessions praised the example of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The county will receive nearly $500,000 in federal grants. It was also sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for complying with federal immigration authorities.
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