The mayors of 15 large American cities, including some from so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions, met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington Tuesday to discuss the DOJ’s efforts to cut funding from cities that frustrate federal immigration enforcement.
Session’s Justice Department sent a letter to eight sanctuary cities and the “sanctuary state” of California last week demanding they show compliance with federal immigration laws or lose law enforcement grant money. In a statement issued after Tuesday’s meeting, Sessions clarified what he expects from cities in states in the fight against illegal alien crime:
The Department of Justice will fulfill our responsibility to uphold and enforce our nation’s immigration laws, including 8 U.S.C. 1373. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice required certain grantees to certify compliance with federal law, including 8 U.S.C. 1373, as a condition for receiving grant funding.
8 U.S.C. 1373 prohibits local jurisdictions from preventing the Immigration and Naturalization Service from getting immigration status information on people they detain.
At least two leaders from such jurisdictions attended the morning meeting with the Attorney General, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, and Mayor Steve Adler of Austin. The Associated Press reported the mayors saying the legal definition of that term “sanctuary cities” was clarified at the meeting.
Cutting funding from sanctuary cities has been a centerpiece of Session’s new policy at DOJ and a major effort of the Trump administration. The meeting with mayors was to serve as an opportunity to explain these efforts to city leaders, beginning with the already announced plan to withhold law enforcement grants. In his statement, Sessions explained:
We are pleased that the mayors who met with us today assured us they want to be in compliance with the law. The vast majority of state and local jurisdictions are in compliance and want to work with federal law enforcement to keep their communities safe. Of course, compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 is the minimum the American people should expect. We want all jurisdictions to enthusiastically support the laws of the United States that require the removal of criminal aliens, as many jurisdictions already do.
A U.S. district court ruling, handed down only hours after Sessions met with the mayors, frustrates wider efforts by the administration to stop grant money flowing to jurisdictions that refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373. The ruling, by Judge William Orrick of the San Francisco-based U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, blocks a section of President Donald Trump’s February executive order authorizing the withdrawal of all federal funds from such jurisdictions. That authority will now be suspended while the lawsuit, launched by a group of California sanctuary cities, works its way through the courts.
The ruling may not, however, effect Sessions’s demands for compliance. The DOJ grants he is threatening to withdraw already had their own provisions preventing them from being dispensed to jurisdictions that fail to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 before President Trump’s executive order.