Immigration Law

Sessions interprets Trump order on sanctuary cities narrowly; DOJ asks court to reconsider ruling

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions/Gage Skidmore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a narrow interpretation on Monday to President Donald Trump’s order withholding federal funds to sanctuary cities.

Sessions expressed his views in a memo. The same day, the U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal judge to reconsider an injunction that had blocked Trump’s order, report Politico, The Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Sessions said the only funds that will be withheld under Trump’s order are federal grants administered by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. And Sessions defined sanctuary cities as those that willfully refuse to comply with a federal law requiring local jurisdictions to share immigration status information with federal authorities.

Going forward, however, the Justice Department “may seek to tailor grants to promote a lawful system of immigration,” Sessions wrote in the memo. The language raised the possibility that the grants will be tailored to encourage local governments to honor requests to detain immigrants for deportation, according to the press coverage.

The Justice Department filing said the memo contradicts many of the bases for the April 25 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Orrick of San Francisco. Orrick had said the government could not threaten to withhold federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit was the city of San Francisco. City attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement that the memo “doesn’t change the constitutional problems of the executive order.”

“This guidance memo is coming from an administration that has a different explanation for things seemingly every time you turn around,” he said. “We can’t trust this administration not to make good on its threats.”

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.

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