DOJ warns 9 sanctuary cities grant money is at risk–60ih.,b28
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration intensified its threats to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities, warning nine jurisdictions Friday that they may lose coveted law enforcement grant money unless they document cooperation.
It sent letters to officials in California and major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, all places the Justice Department’s inspector general has identified as limiting the information local law enforcement can provide to federal immigration authorities about those in their custody.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that the administration will punish communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally. But some of the localities remained defiant, despite risking the loss of funds that police agencies use to pay for everything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.
“We’re not going to cave to these threats,” Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic said, promising a legal fight if the money is pulled. Playing off Sessions’ recent comments that sanctuary cities undermine the fight against gangs, the Justice Department said the communities under financial threat are “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime.”
After a raid led to the arrests of 11 MS-13 gang members in California’s 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 department said in a statement.
The federal law in question says state and local governments may not prohibit police or sheriffs from sharing information about a person’s immigration status with federal authorities.
The money could be withheld in the future, or terminated, if local officials fail to prove they are following the law, wrote Alan R. Hanson, acting head of the Office of Justice Programs. The grant program is the leading source of federal justice funding to states and local communities. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly threatened additional consequences for local police that don’t deliver people in custody, saying the alternative is immigration agents searching neighborhoods.
“Ideally the best place for us to pick up these illegal criminals is in jails and prisons,” Kelly said at a news conference with Sessions in San Diego, next to a border fence topped with razor wire. “If they don’t do that, then we have to go into neighborhoods. We have to go into courthouses. We have to go wherever we can find them and apprehend them.”
Kevin de Leon, leader of California’s state Senate, rejected the administration’s demand, saying its policies are based on “principles of white supremacy” and not American values.
“Their constant and systematic targeting of diverse cities and states goes beyond constitutional norms and will be challenged at every level,” he said.
Leaders in Chicago and Cook County, which shared a grant of more than $2.3 million in 2016, dismissed the threat. So did the mayor’s office in New York City, which received $4.3 million. The Justice Department singled out Chicago’s rise in homicides and said New York’s gang killings were the “predictable consequence of the city’s soft-on-crime stance.”
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the “soft on crime” statement made his blood boil. “To say we’re soft on crime is absolutely ludicrous,” O’Neill said.
He said his police department, by far the nation’s largest, locked up more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns last year.
It also took issue with a New Orleans Police Department policy that it said might hinder communication with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That city received nearly $266,000 in grant money through the program in fiscal year 2016. New Orleans has used Justice Department funding to pay for testing DNA kits, police body cameras, attorneys for domestic violence victims and other expenses.
sources- Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Ivan Moreno in Milwaukee; Sophia Tareen in Chicago; Karen Matthews in New York; Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California; Elliot Spagat in San Diego; and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.,