WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Justice on Thursday announced cities hoping to participate in a federal training program meant to combat violent crime will have to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement requests, the latest in the agency’s attempts to punish so-called “sanctuary cities.”
In making the announcement, the Justice Department sent letters asking about the immigration enforcement policies of four cities that requested to participate in the public safety partnership program, which provides training and technical assistance to help communities combat violent crime.
All four cities, Baltimore, Maryland, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Bernardino and Stockton, California, have shown interest in participating in the program and have the high violent crime levels necessary to qualify, but also all have policies that the Justice Department says frustrate the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The letters ask the four cities about their policies towards complying with requests from federal immigration agents to interview people held in prison who are in the country illegally and whether they warn the federal government before releasing such prisoners. The cities have until Aug. 18 to respond to the requests.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday said the move to block so-called “sanctuary cities” from participating in a federal training program would dissuade other cities from making similar decisions with their laws, repeating the Justice Department’s position that such cities pose a public safety risk
“By taking simple, common-sense considerations into account, we are encouraging every jurisdiction in this country to cooperate with federal law enforcement,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Thursday. “That’s what 80 percent of the American people want them to do, and that will ultimately make all of us safer – especially law enforcement on our streets. These policies are driven by politics and do not protect their citizens. We will fight them with every lawful tool available.”
The Justice Department has already announced 12 cities that will participate in the program and the four that received letters on Thursday could be in the next round of cities to join on.