Attorney General Sessions threatens sanctuary cities with federal grant cuts
On Tuesday afternoon, Sessions released a statement threatening to cut lucrative funding related to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants for so-called sanctuary cities, where local and state law enforcement are not bound to federal requests on immigration enforcement. Many cities rely on federal funding for law enforcement in their communities.
The requirements set forth by Sessions state that the sanctuary cities need to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers access to their jails and can’t stop their local police from providing ICE the immigration status of the people they arrest. Moreover, the cities must give ICE a 48-hour notice before releasing people from custody who get arrested, if ICE has a detainer on them.
“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 the statement.
“This is what the American people should be able to expect from their cities and states, and these long overdue requirements will help us take down MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs, and make our country safer,” the top US law enforcement official added.
Federal funding will not be revoked for any cities that have already received it, or cities that are in the process of getting the money this year. The new rules will go into effect next year, according to the Daily Beast.
President Donald Trump has spoken in the past about targeting sanctuary cities, but immigrant rights activists disagree with him and argue that when law enforcement is blocked from communication with ICE, immigrants have less fear about telling law enforcement about crimes.
For many cities, losing the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant will be a big deal and fighting back may not be an option. In March, Austin, which does not fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, said that they may have to start complying because they rely on the grant funding, the Daily Beast reported.
Cecelia Friedman Levin, senior policy counsel for the immigration justice group Asista, believes undocumented immigrants may think twice about calling law enforcement in the current political climate.
“Abusers commonly threaten victims that reaching out for help will result in their removal or separation from their children,” she said, the Guardian reported.
“Before the executive orders on immigration,” she added, “the advice advocates would commonly give is that the police are here to help, that there are policies in place that protect all victims. But now, depending on the jurisdiction, those advocates may pause before giving that same advice, especially if they’re seeing increased immigration raids in their communities and given the wide breadth of enforcement priorities laid out by the administration.”
The announcement from the US attorney general comes on the heels of Trump’s negative comments about Sessions. Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday afternoon that he was “very disappointed” in Sessions.