Attorney General Jeff Sessions renewed threats on Thursday to single out four specific cities applying for crime-prevention funding — including San Bernardino and Stockton, California— that he believes are failing to cooperate fully with federal immigration officials; something city officials protest.
According to an AP report, Department of Justice (DOJ) sent letters to four cities struggling with high crime and murder rates— Baltimore, Albuquerque, and Stockton and San Bernardino in California—warning them they would be ineligible for a federal program that provides money to cities actively combatting drug trafficking and gang crime unless they grant federal authorities complete access to jails and prior notification before releasing inmates with pending immigration violations.
Multiple reports note that all four cities expressed interest in the Justice Department’s Public Safety Partnership, which offers direct federal aid to cities for crime-fighting.
What’s strange is that while none of the four cities have formally declared itself a “sanctuary city” publicly, Sessions made it clear that he doesn’t believe they’re doing enough working with the feds to protect citizens from criminal illegal aliens.
Sessions took the unusual step of including a statement with the letters, stating: “By taking simple, common sense considerations into account, we are encouraging every jurisdiction in this country to cooperate with federal law enforcement. That will ultimately make all of us safer — especially law enforcement on our streets.”
Both California cities cited raised the same concern according to the Redlands Daily Facts—booking suspects into jails run by the county not under city control:
In San Bernardino, officers book anyone they arrest into jails that are run by the county, not the Southern California city of 216,000 people, said Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.
“The city of San Bernardino has never taken any formal act to declare itself a sanctuary city,” Burguan said. “Our policies have been very, very consistent over the years.”
Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said his officers also book suspects into a county-run facility and are tasked with fighting violent crime, not enforcing federal immigration laws.
“That does not mean we don’t work with our other federal partners, but that is just not a function of ours,” he said.
Sessions has pledged to make good on priorities the president laid out in his state of the union address earlier this year—fighting immigration and street crime, but the LA Times reports that “Jones said he was disappointed by the Department of Justice’s decision to use the program for political leverage.”
“For us, it’s all about reducing violent crime. That’s what the PSP is about. It’s unfortunate when things like this become politicized,” he said.
The chief added that he does not see a connection between illegal immigration and violent crime in Stockton.
At stake are millions of dollars of funding that police departments use for everything from bulletproof vests to body cameras.
The DOJ has given the four cities until August 18th to comply with Session’s demands.