The Department of Justice on Friday sent nine local governments letters that warned they may lose federal funding because of their “sanctuary” policies restricting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
The letters, signed by acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson, alerted the local governments that they are required to comply with a federal law compelling them to share the immigration status of people in their custody. Failure to do so would result in the loss of funding this year under a grant that provided $256 million in 2015 to help local police, prosecutors, judges and jailers.
The jurisdictions that received notices are: the state of California, the cities of Chicago, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia, and Clark County, Nev., Cook County, Ill., Miami-Dade County, Fla., and Milwaukee County, Wis.
Hanson’s letter warned they risked future federal grants and “other action, as appropriate.”
“Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the department wrote in a statement accompanying the letters.
The notifications are the latest step in President Trump’s attacks against “sanctuary cities,” more than 300 local jurisdictions that restrict cooperation with federal immigration officials.
A growing number of cities, counties and states have said that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has demanded too much of them, even asking them to engage in the legally questionable practice of holding suspects for up to 48 hours solely to give ICE time to investigate the immigration status of suspects.
Trump repeatedly bashed those cities during his presidential campaign. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before White House reporters to threaten cities that fail to comply fully with the federal government’s demands on immigration enforcement.
In February, Miami-Dade County reversed itself and passed a resolution promising to cooperate with immigration authorities. It acted after Trump signed an executive order threatening “sanctuary cities” with the loss of funds.
On Friday, county spokesman Michael Hernandez said the county would do everything necessary to prove it no longer belongs on Justice’s hit list.
“We’re going to chalk (the letter) up to it just being part of the process,” Hernandez said. “The Department of Justice and members of Congress are well aware of Miami-Dade County’s policy reversal. We’re very confident that once we present the department with the information it’s seeking, we will no longer be considered a sanctuary jurisdiction.”
The letter to Miami-Dade County twice misspelled the name of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, referring to him as “Mayor Giminez.”
That error comes a week after ICE stopped publishing a weekly report designed to shame “sanctuary cities” because the reports were riddled with errors.
Officials from other targeted jurisdictions responded with defiance on Friday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that Sessions’ remarks made by Sessions, who called New York “soft on crime,” were “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”
“It’s absurd on its face and ignores a quarter centurry of progress in this city in bringing down crime,” the mayor said. “We did not become the safest big city in America by being ‘soft on crime.’ I’ve never met a member of NYPD who is soft on crime.”
New York City police commissioner James O’Neill echoed the mayor’s outrage, saying the attorney general’s claims show a disregard for facts. “New York City is experiencing a steady decline in overall crime that includes major reductions in murder and shootings,” O’Neill said in a statement. ” In fact, 2016 saw the fewest shootings ever in New York City history since record keeping began. Year to date the City is down an additional 17% from last year’s record low.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed similar defiance on Friday. His city is among 34 that signed an amicus brief in San Francisco’s federal court supporting the County of Santa Clara lawsuit against Trump’s threat to cut funding.
“We’ve seen the letter from DOJ,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Neither the facts nor the law are on their side. Regardless, let me be clear: Chicago’s values and Chicago’s future are not for sale.”
Contributing: Aamer Madhani in Chicago, Melanie Eversley in New York
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