Associated Press, July 26, 2017
The justice department escalated its promised crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities on Tuesday, saying it will no longer award coveted grant money to cities unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.
Under old rules, cities seeking grant money needed only to show they were not preventing local law enforcement from communicating with federal authorities about the immigration status of people they have detained.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said in a statement. “These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law . . . We must encourage these ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions to change their policies and partner with federal law enforcement to remove criminals.”
The conditions apply to one of the justice department’s most popular grant programs, which provides police departments money to buy everything from bulletproof vests to body cameras. The requirements will apply to cities seeking grants starting in September.
Sessions for months had been warning jurisdictions they could lose money, just for having rules that limit communication among local police and immigration officials. The new conditions say officials must let Department of Homeland Security employees have access to local jails in order to meet with immigrants and must give them 48 hours’ notice before releasing an immigrant wanted by immigration authorities from their custody.
A judge in April blocked Trump’s executive order aimed at withholding funding from sanctuary cities, saying the president could not set new conditions on spending approved by Congress. But the justice department said it still could condition some of its grants to force cities to cooperate with immigration authorities.