The Department of Justice on Wednesday told Illinois, Oregon, and Vermont and 26 "sanctuary" cities and counties around the country that they were found to have "laws, policies or practices” that violate federal immigration laws, and that failure to demonstrate compliance by early December could mean reduced federal grants.
The new jurisdictions range across the nation, and include big cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, as well as smaller ones like Lawrence, Mass.
The department warned the 29 jurisdictions in separate letters that in order to continue receiving public safety grants under the Justice Department's Edward Bryne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, the jurisdictions must prove compliance with Section 1373 of 8 U.S. Code by Dec. 8.
“I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents. We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with Section 1373, but also to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process criminal aliens,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement.
However, a federal judge in September blocked Sessions’ attempt to withhold the federal grant money.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of the City of Chicago in its request for a preliminary injunction, and the ruled applied nationwide temporarily. The case is now making its way through the courts.
The Justice Department cited the specific laws, policies or practices in each letter that it said defy Section 1373. The statute prohibits local and state governments from enacting laws or policies that limit communication with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Customs and Border Protection about "information regarding the immigration or citizenship status."
For example, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser put forth a policy for the city’s Department of Corrections that states “employees shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status or contact [ICE] for purposes of initiating civil enforcement immigration proceedings.”
According to the Justice Department in its letter to the city, obtained by The Washington Examiner, this order “appears to restrict the requesting of information regarding immigration status," thus putting it in violation of Section 1373.
In addition to the states of Illinois, Oregon, and Vermont, the jurisdictions that received letters on Wednesday are:
- Albany, N.Y.
- Berkeley, Calif.
- Bernalillo County, N.M.
- Burlington, Vt.
- Contra Costa County, Calif.
- City and County of Denver, Colo.
- Fremont, Calif.
- Jackson, Miss.
- King County, Wash.
- Lawrence, Mass.
- Los Angeles, Calif.
- Louisville Metro, Ky.
- Middlesex, N.J.
- Monterey County, Calif.
- Multnomah County, Ore.
- Newark, N.J.
- Riverside County, Calif.
- Sacramento County, Calif.
- City and County of San Francisco, Calif.
- Santa Ana, Calif.
- Santa Clara County, Calif.
- Seattle, Wash.
- Sonoma County, Calif.
- Washington, D.C.
- Watsonville, Calif.
- West Palm Beach, Fla.
Sessions has threatened sanctuary cities before, following President Trump's lead.
In April, the Justice Department first sent warning letters to Sacramento, Chicago, Cook County, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, and New York City, asking them to prove compliance with federal immigration law. In July, the Justice Department said it was reviewing those nine.
In October, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, as well as Cook County, Ill., were told they all had a “last chance” to prove they are not “sanctuary.”