Immigration Law

Sessions warns that 'sanctuary cities' may lose Department of Justice block grants

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Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned on Monday that the Department of Justice will withhold and even claw back law-enforcement block grants to “sanctuary” jurisdictions that fail to demonstrate compliance with a federal law that requires sharing of immigration information.

At a White House appearance, Sessions spoke about the danger created when law enforcement fails to comply with federal requests to detain immigrants charged or convicted against serious crimes, report the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Hill and the Washington Times. Portions of his speech broadcast online closely followed his prepared remarks.

He cited a recent Department of Homeland Security report that showed that, in just one week, there were more than 200 instances of jurisdictions that refused to honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants charged or convicted of a serious crime.

“The charges and convictions against these aliens include drug trafficking, hit and run, rape, sex offenses against a child and even murder,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks. “Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.”

Sessions cited the case of Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an immigrant who was in the country illegally and had seven felony convictions. San Francisco had released the immigrant from custody despite a detainer request, Sessions said.

Sessions said he would require jurisdictions seeking DOJ grants to certify compliance with Section 1373, a federal law that bars local law enforcement agencies from refusing to share immigration status information with federal authorities. He also said the department would “take all lawful steps to claw back any funds” awarded to jurisdictions that violate Section 1373.

It is unclear, the Washington Post reports, which jurisdictions could lose money for noncompliance. Some cities that bar disclosure of immigration information have exceptions. And refusing a detainer request is not a violation of Section 1373.

The Obama administration had issued guidance last July requiring jurisdictions to certify compliance with Section 1373 to be eligible for grants through the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, Sessions said.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January that calls for an examination of ways to withhold federal grant money to sanctuary cities that don’t report immigrants in the country illegally to federal authorities.

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