Attorney General: Sanctuary cities are risking federal money
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions today warned so-called sanctuary cities they could lose federal money for refusing to cooperate with immigration authorities and suggested the government would come after grants that have already been awarded if they don't comply.
Sessions said the Justice Department would require cities seeking some of $4.1 billion available in grant money to verify they are in compliance with a section of federal law that allows information sharing with immigration officials.
His statements in the White House briefing room brought to mind tough talk from President Donald Trump's campaign and came just three days after the administration's crushing health care defeat. But Sessions also acknowledged he was reiterating a similar policy adopted by the Obama administration last year.
"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.
The message is a furtherance of Trump's campaign promise to "defund" sanctuary cities by taking away their federal funding. But legal precedent suggests that would be difficult.
The Obama administration issued the same warning last year, telling cities they risked losing grant money in 2017 if they didn't comply with the law.
Sessions did not detail what specific factors would trigger the government to deny or strip a city of money, only that it would take "all lawful steps to claw-back" funds already awarded to cities deemed to be out of compliance.
At stake are grants that go toward an array of programs, including victim services, body cameras for police, tools to cut rape kit testing backlogs and police involvement in community events.