The Justice Department on Friday fired an opening shot in the Trump administration’s crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, sending letters to nine jurisdictions asking for proof that they are cooperating with immigration enforcement, and indicating they are at risk of losing federal grants.
The letters went to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as officials in Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York and Cook County, Ill.
All have laws or policies that restrict the ability of police and jails to hand over people who are in the country illegally to federal immigration officers.
The sanctuary cities were a reaction to Obama-era policies that enlisted local police in immigration enforcement. They have come under heavy attack from President Trump and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.
In a statement, the Justice Department said the cities are “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” mentioning an increase in Chicago murders and gang violence in New York City.
“And just several weeks ago in California’s Bay Area, after a raid captured 11 MS-13 members on charges including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next,” the release said
The letters say a lack of cooperation might mean the jurisdictions are in violation of their agreements concerning Justice Department grants.
The department hands out $2.2 billion each year to localities to support anti-crime efforts.
Some cities already have begun an effort to resist the pressure from the Trump administration. Seattle has already filed a federal lawsuit asking a court to declare that it can refuse to help the new immigration crackdown.
(Ludovic Marin / AFP/Getty Images) President Trump signs an executive order on Feb. 3. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)