WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department escalated its promised crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities Tuesday, saying it will no longer give cities coveted grant money 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 immigration authorities about the citizenship status of someone in their custody.
The announcement came even as questions swirled about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ future as the nation’s top law enforcement officer following President Donald Trump’s blistering criticism over recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions and Trump had bonded during the campaign, largely over their hardline views on illegal immigration. Trump long promised cuts in federal grants for cities that refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to detain and deport those living in the country illegally.
“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 money to buy everything from bulletproof vests to body cameras. And the requirements will apply to cities seeking grants starting in September.