The Justice Department has formally kicked off its long-planned effort to crack down on “sanctuary” jurisdictions, publishing a requirement that cities and counties cooperate with immigration enforcement in order to be eligible for a federal grant.

The Justice Department indicated that applicants seeking funds under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs for the current fiscal year would be notified of new conditions.

“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a prepared statement. “These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law. This can have tragic consequences, like the 10 deaths we saw in San Antonio this weekend.”

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Under the new rules, grant recipients must:

  • Certify compliance with a federal statute that bars state and local governments from prohibiting employees from communicating with federal immigration authorities.
  • Permit Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to have access to detention facilities.
  • Give ICE at least 48 hours’ notice before releasing any illegal immigrant that federal authorities have asked to hold.

Advocates of stricter immigration enforcement praised the action, which has been in the works since President Donald Trump signed an executive order, shortly after taking office in January, targeting sanctuary policies.

“It’s very important to follow through on commitments, pledges, promises to withhold funds from these cities that absolutely refuse to cooperate with attempts to enforce immigration law,” said Joseph Guzzardi, a spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization. “It’s good news for enforcement advocates. And it’s important.”

Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, said the actions taken by Sessions are unprecedented in recent memory.

“This is the first time that I can recall … of an actual threat that ‘You are not going to receive this grant,'” he said.

Even as Sessions worked to carry out one of Trump’s highest priorities, Sessions found himself Wednesday criticized yet again by the president on Twitter. The attorney general has withstood a withering campaign seemingly designed to prompt his resignation.

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Chmielenski said he worries that if Sessions leaves, immigration enforcement will be a casualty.

“I think it would very much be up in the air,” he said. “These are all issues that Jeff Sessions has dedicated his Senate career [to], at least the last 20 years … I don’t think there is anyone else Trump could bring in who feels as strongly as Jeff Sessions does.”

The Justice Department’s move sets up a near-certain showdown in court, where administration critics already have challenged the executive order that led to the policy change. A federal judge in California blocked the administration in April from taking expansive actions against sanctuary jurisdictions but allowed the government to proceed as authorized by law.

“They’ll fight it,” predicted Christopher Hajec, director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute. “It will affect current cases, I would imagine.”

The judge’s preliminary injunction remains in effect. The Justice Department contends the conditions attached to the grant program comply with those limitations.

“They’re in full rebellion against this program, this very reasonable federal program … and they don’t care,” Hajec said. “They just want to frustrate that.”

“They’re in full rebellion against this program, this very reasonable federal program … and they don’t care. They just want to frustrate that.”

Hajec, whose organization favors tougher immigration enforcement, said it is a sign of how radical some jurisdictions have become that the federal government had to make a special request for access to local jails. San Francisco recently went so far as to authorize a $190,000 payment to an illegal immigrant to make amends for a police officer informing ICE about the man’s presence in the jail.

“They’re in full rebellion against this program, this very reasonable federal program … and they don’t care,” Hajec said. “They just want to frustrate that.”

Hundreds of cities and counties — and a few states — have passed one form of sanctuary policy or another. Guzzardi, of the California group, said he fully expects many local governments to dig in. But he added that some might change their policies now that money is on the line.

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“I suspect there might be mixed responses,” he said. “Some jurisdictions are going to be affected more heavily.”

Guzzardi said some local governments might also face public pressure once people realize that their communities stand to lose money. He pointed to a 2015 poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, indicating that 74 percent of people even in liberal California believe that local authorities should not be able to ignore federal requests to detain illegal immigrants.

The survey showed large majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents opposed to sanctuary policies.

“When you start talking to the average citizen on the street, there’s very little support for it,” Guzzardi said.