On Wednesday, the Justice Department threatened to sue nearly two dozen jurisdictions — including the state of California, New York City, and Chicago — if they failed to provide documents showing whether they restricted information sharing with federal immigration authorities.
The move appeared to be an extension of the administration’s attempt to crack down on so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions,” which Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced for endangering their residents. The DOJ warned that if the 23 named jurisdictions failed to comply, they could lose 2017 fiscal year grant funding and be forced to return funding from FY 2016.
“I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” Sessions said in a Wednesday press release.
Sessions suggested that blocking information flows served to protect criminal immigrants and undermine “the rule of law,” adding, “We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement — enough is enough.”
Sessions previously issued a memo ordering his department to condition federal aid on whether jurisdictions complied with federal immigration enforcement. That decision stemmed from President Donald Trump’s executive order, which denounced sanctuary jurisdictions as a causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
In a statement sent to Independent Journal Review, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rebuffed the Justice Department’s warning and accused the administration of blackmail:
The Trump Justice Department can try to intimidate us with legal threats, but we will never abandon our values as a welcoming city or the rights of Chicago residents. The Trump Administration’s actions undermine public safety by jeopardizing our philosophy of community policing, as they attempt to drive a wedge between immigrant communities and the police who serve them. Like we’ve done in our lawsuit against the Trump Justice Department for attempting to use a federal public safety grant to blackmail cities like Chicago, we will continue to stand up for Chicago’s residents and our principles.
A spokeswoman for California’s Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) told IJR the state complied with 8 U.S.C. 1373, the law the Justice Department cited in its warning.
“The BSCC has received the letter and will respond to the DOJ by the deadline. We continue to maintain that California is in full compliance with 1373,” the spokeswoman said.
The DOJ’s warning came a little more than a month after jurors found Kate Steinle’s alleged murderer — an undocumented immigrant that San Francisco released from a prison despite federal immigration authorities’ request not to — not guilty.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include California’s response.