WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that the Justice Department has started reviewing letters 10 cities have sent the Justice Department seeking to prove they are in compliance with federal immigration laws.
In a speech in March, Sessions threatened to “claw-back” grant money from cities, counties and states that refuse requests to keep people who have committed a crime while in the country illegally in custody until federal law enforcement officers can pick them up.
In doing so, Sessions cited a May 2016 inspector general report that found such policies might violate federal laws to support the threat.
The inspector general report looked at 10 so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, which included large cities like New York and Philadelphia as well as entire states like California and Connecticut, and found that their policies could potentially violate federal immigration laws.
The investigation that produced the report started at the request of Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican who oversees the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
The cities had until June 30 to send in their legal justifications, which Sessions referred as “alleged compliance information.” The letters the 10 jurisdictions sent the Justice Department are meant to show they are in compliance with federal law, even if they continue refusing to cooperate with federal immigration holds.
The Justice Department has started reviewing the justifications and will eventually decide whether they stand up to its scrutiny. Sessions said the Justice Department will “examine these claims carefully” and that people expect their cities and states to show “basic compliance with federal law.”
“It is not enough to assert compliance, the jurisdictions must actually be in compliance,” Sessions said in a statement. “Sanctuary cities put the lives and well-being of their residents at risk by shielding criminal illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities. These policies give sanctuary to criminals, not to law-abiding Americans. The Trump Administration is determined to keep every American neighborhood safe and that is why we have asked these cities to comply with federal law, specifically 8 U.S.C. 1373.”