by WorldTribune Staff, March 28, 2017
Officials in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York said they will maintain their status as Sanctuary Cities despite the Justice Department’s threat to withdraw federal funding.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on March 27 said local jurisdictions seeking Department of Justice grants must first demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities, by proving they are in compliance with Section 1373 of U.S. Code Title 8, which requires notification of federal officials about the immigration status of people in local custody. The policy was issued under the Obama administration in 2016.
“I urge the nation’s states and cities to carefully consider the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws,” Sessions said in a statement from the White House briefing room.
Sessions noted that the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs and Community Oriented Policing Services expects to issue about $4.1 billion in grants during the current fiscal year.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he will fight efforts by the Trump administration to take away federal funding.
“We will fight to protect the safety and dignity of all Angelenos, and we will work closely with our representatives in Congress to make sure that Los Angeles does not go without federal resources that help protect millions of people every day,” Garcetti said.
Los Angeles in recent years received Justice Department grants that include $1.8 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which goes to the city’s initiative for reducing criminal gang activity.
The city also was awarded $1 million last year from the Justice Department to be put toward a program to equip all police officers in the field with body cameras.
Sessions’ warning comes on the heels of a Trump administration report on local jails, listing more than 200 cases across the country in which immigrants were released from custody before federal agents could intervene.
Los Angeles-area jails made the federal government’s list.
Under Special Order 40, Los Angeles police officers are prohibited from approaching individuals to ask about immigration status or arresting people for immigration-related violations. But the policy also requires police officials to inform federal immigration officials of any “undocumented alien” who is arrested for multiple misdemeanor violations, high-level misdemeanor or felony offense violations or for a repeat offense.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will maintain its sanctuary city status.
“Chicago was built on the back of immigrants and our future is hitched to the wagon of immigrants who come to the city,” he said. “I would say that the approach of penalizing cities, cities that are driving the economy, driving the energy of the United States – and they do it because we bring people of all different backgrounds to work together – that’s just the wrong approach.”
Chicago receives more than $1 billion in federal funding for initiatives including transportation, housing, public health and law enforcement – an area in which Emanuel has repeatedly asked for more assistance in combating the city’s epidemic of violence.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other New York officials responded to the Justice Department threat by promising to block federal immigration agents from accessing certain private areas on city property, to restrict their access to schools and school records and to offer legal services to immigrants in the country illegally.
“We are going to become this administration’s worst nightmare,” Mark-Viverito said.