WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday new measures that would “claw back” Justice Department funds from so-called sanctuary cities that take a more lenient approach to enforcing federal immigration laws.
Sessions made the announcement at the beginning of the White House daily press briefing.
“Unfortunately, some states and cities have adopted policies designed to frustrate the enforcement of our immigration laws,” his statement said. “This includes refusing to detain known felons under federal detainer requests, or otherwise failing to comply with these laws.”
President Donald Trump had said during the campaign that he would “defund” sanctuary cities by taking away their federal funding.
But legal precedent suggests that would have been difficult to do.
Sanctuary cities include New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as many smaller municipalities.
Sessions said that to get department grants, cities must comply with Section 1373, which says that federal, state and local officials may not interfere in the exchange of information with immigration officials about an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.
The attorney general claimed during that sanctuary cities make the nation less safe.
“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted for criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk – especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators,” he said.
Numerous studies, however, have long shown that immigrants – both lawful and unlawful — are less likely to commit violent crimes than natural-born citizens.
And Sessions’ statements drew a sharp rebule from Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy with the National Immigration Law Center, who said in a statement, “Today’s threats put America’s immigrants in the administration’s crosshairs once again. The question now is how long will Congress allow and enable this president to scapegoat and criminalize our communities, undermining the very fabric of our democracy?”
Following Sessions’ news conference, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a statement in which he said, “Despite what Attorney General Sessions implied this afternoon, state and local governments and law enforcement have broad authority under the Constitution to not participate in federal immigration enforcement.
“As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families,” Schneiderman said. “Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and those they bravely serve; yet, again and again, President Trump’s draconian policies only serve to undercut that trust.
“My office will continue to ensure local governments have the tools they need to legally protect their immigrant communities – and we won’t stop fighting to beat back President Trump’s un-American immigration policies,” Schneiderman said.
In Louisiana, Attorney General Jeff Landry said he’s been warning state and local officials about the need to end its sanctuary cities, and “now, the chickens are coming home to roost.”
” We have an illegal immigration problem across the country and certainly in Louisiana. Unfortunately, New Orleans is part of this problem as the only sanctuary city in Louisiana,” Landry said. “By refusing to cooperate with ICE, New Orleans is risking not only the security of citizens in our state but also their funding. Our office has continuously warned against this happening.
“I wrote a letter to Mayor Landrieu a year ago alerting him that the New Orleans policy was in violation of federal law,” Landry continued. “He has ignored my plea and even doubled-down on political hyperbole in opposing President Trump’s efforts on this problem. This is not a time for politics; it is time for leaders to work together to solve this evident public safety issue.”