Saying that countless Americans would be alive today were it not for the illegal actions of undocumented immigrants, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will begin efforts to punish sanctuary cities and counties.
Sessions could withhold part of the $4 billion in spending he oversees, particularly monies in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and two other grant programs.
“Not only do these policies endanger lives of every American, [but] just last May, the Department of Justice inspector general found these policies also violate federal law.”
Part of Sessions’ enforcement efforts will require cities and counties to certify they are not sanctuary cities before they ask for grants from the U.S. Department of Justice.
More than 100 counties and cities refuse to comply with requests for information, or for detention, from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to ICE’s first “name-and-shame” press release last week.
The Trump administration’s immigration agenda is targeting criminal offenders who are undocumented aliens. The White House is betting that sanctuary jurisdictions will not want to lose federal money because they don’t want to release information collected at jails on illegal immigrants who are alleged to have committed serious crimes.
Sessions said in one week since Trump took office, there were at least 200 cases of local jurisdictions refusing requests from ICE. The offenses of the alleged illegal immigrants included rape, hit-and-run, child abuse, and murder.
“Not only do these policies endanger lives of every American, [but just last May, the Department of Justice inspector general found these policies also violate federal law,” said Sessions.
Sessions surprised reporters on Monday as he walked into the White House briefing room and took questions on the new policy. It was perhaps an attempt to put focus on a new aspect of President Donald Trump’s agenda, after Republicans’ embarrassing failure to repeal Obamacare on Friday.
Asked about a specific case in Montgomery County, Maryland, Sessions warned the Maryland state government to avoid making the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, especially those ICE believes should be detained in jail.
Trump has already issued executive orders on illegal immigration, including one that gives the Justice Department the power to withhold some money.
Sessions said it is time for localities to “rethink” sanctuary policies in light of national security, and now the threat they will lose federal dollars.