A Republican congressman said Monday he would try to shut off funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” with a procedure that does not require a vote of Congress or President Obama’s signature.
Rep. John Culberson, a Texan who chairs the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch warning that he will use his authority to deny the department spending flexibility if officials do not deny grants to jurisdictions that fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.
According to the Center for Immigration studies, there are more than 3,00 such cities and counties across the United States.
“I don’t need a bill,” Culberson said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Monday. “I don’t need an amendment … I’m announcing the new rule as the new chairman: If (a) local law-enforcement agency wants federal law-enforcement money, they have to enforce federal law, or I’ll do everything in my power to disqualify them.”
A representative from the Justice Department did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Culberson is demanding that the Justice Department amend its law-enforcement grant forms to require applicants to swear they do not have policies that obstruct communication with federal immigration officers and to deny the applications of jurisdictions that fail to comply.
Federal agencies routinely shift money from one purpose to another to meet changing needs throughout the course of the year. Under that process, congressional committee chairmen must approve the requests, which happens as a matter or routine. Culberson said he will change that practice.
“We are going to aggressively enforce existing law, and we can pressure the Department of Justice, Laura, by denying them money for headquarters, cutting off money for things they want to do without affecting the men and women in the field,” he said.
Jessica Vaughan, a senior fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, said it appears that Culberson has the authority he is asserting.
“He’s fairly new in that position,” she said. “It may be no one else realized they had that authority, or more like no one has been as determined as he is to actually do it … It is a unique approach.”
Culberson has used the tactic before. Last year, he successfully pressured the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to drop a proposed ban on the manufacture and sale of 5.56 mm/.223 caliber M855 “green tip” ammunition.
For years, Republicans have complained that a growing number of local governments are thwarting federal immigration enforcement efforts by failing to hold people who are in the country illegally and by refusing to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Repeated efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities have stalled in Congress. Republican leaders have been unwilling to cut off funds during the budget process for fear of provoking a politically damaging government shutdown.
“This shows that you don’t have to shut down the whole government to have an impact,” Vaughan said. “Certain members of Congress have a lot of authority that they’ve been very cautious about using.”