Justice Department May Crack Down on Sanctuary Cities

Undocumented immigrants sit handcuffed after being apprehended near the Mexican border May 28, 2010 near McAllen, Texas.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Justice Department says it is taking measures to ensure that jurisdictions receiving federal grant money are in compliance with federal law, and that includes sanctuary cities.

In a letter to Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik detailed the policies in place to ensure jurisdictions comply with federal immigration law.

Namely, the Justice Department is requiring applicants for law enforcement grants to “assure and certify” that they are in compliance with federal law, including immigration law.

“Where the Department of Justice (the Department) receives a credible allegation that an entity receiving funds under a Department grant or reimbursement program has, after assuring or certifying compliance with applicable federal laws, violated specific federal law, the Department can potentially seek criminal or civil enforcement options against the entity,” the letter, dated Tuesday, reads.

Center for Immigration Studies expert Jessica Vaughan explained to Breitbart News that this policy means any jurisdiction that has a policy restricting cooperation with federal immigration officials, in violation of the law, will find their funding under scrutiny.

“[Attorney General Loretta] Lynch said that if her department gets a ‘credible allegation’ that jurisdictions have these policies and have received funds, they will contact the sanctuaries and tell them they must change their policies or lose their funding,” Vaughan wrote in an email.

The Justice Department’s posture toward sanctuary cities comes after Culberson pressured the department to bring sanctuary cities into compliance with existing law. Culberson is the chairman of the House Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

“The new policies the Department of Justice announced today will keep our streets safer by ensuring that criminal aliens do not roam freely in our communities, and prevent federal tax dollars from being sent to jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration laws,” Culberson said Wednesday in a statement.

In addition to the more then 300 sanctuary cities that may find their funding in the balance, the Justice Department also announced a new process for criminal aliens being released from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Under the new procedure, immigration enforcement gets first dibs on taking criminal aliens into custody for immigration violations — rather than localities, which may has an outstanding warrant.

“ICE’s decision to exercise this right of first refusal is informed, in part, by the state or municipality’s willingness to cooperate with federal authorities on ICE detainers,” Kadzik wrote.

Lynch has also agreed provide the Appropriations Committee with quarterly reports on the new policies.

“I am encouraged by Attorney General Lynch’s announcement today, and I commend Chairman Culberson for working with the Department of Justice to get their commitment to stop any grant funding to jurisdictions that are in violation of applicable federal laws. This is a significant matter for a lot of us and I look forward to verifying DOJ’s progress each quarter,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) added in a statement.

Lynch elaborated on the new policies during a subcommittee hearing Wednesday when questioned by Culberson and Rogers: