Justice Department Sets Deadline for Sanctuary Cities

General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks on the U.S. system for asylum-seekers at the Executive Office for Immigrat

The Justice Department on Thursday said it was giving four cities - Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans - a "last chance" to show they're not thwarting enforcement of USA immigration law before possibly losing grants that help pay for police cars and public safety equipment.

The latest salvo from the Trump administration does not specify why exactly it asserts the city and county are in violation, but gives them until October 27 to prove otherwise before the Justice Department reaches "its final determination" on the matter.

In April, under President Trump, the department sent a letter to nine cities, including Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago, reminding them they had until the end of June to certify their compliance.

Proponents of "sanctuary cities", like Kenney, say they create trust between police and immigrants, who otherwise might be afraid to report crimes.

Two other jurisdictions, the state of CT and Milwaukee County, Wis., heeded Justice Department warnings and reversed policies meant to shield undocumented immigrants from possible deportation.

The federal immigration law in question states that a "federal, state, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual".

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One condition requires the city to give federal agents, when requested, a 48-hour heads up of the scheduled release date and time "of an alien in the jurisdiction's custody". Critics have dubbed such places "sanctuary cities". It's not DOJ policy to track the immigration status of crime victims, but some victims, they argued, are also perpetrators of crime and should have their immigration status shared with the federal government.

Philadelphia police policy forbids officers from asking about anyone's immigration status; city officials have said that when officers inadvertently learn about someone's immigration status, that information will make it into a police report only when that person is suspected of a crime.

Critics have also pointed out local compliance with 1373 can lead to jail overcrowding. "I urge all jurisdictions found to be out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents", he said. "The NOPD will continue to focus on the arrest and conviction of violent criminals, regardless of their immigration status". But, he says the NOPD will not be "the federal government's deportation force".

The exchange between Landrieu and Sessions' Justice Department is hardly the first contentious battle over the NOPD's policies on immigration. The pair have threatened to cut off federal funding to the cities - which include Hartford and New Haven - but so far that hasn't happened.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued it was wrong to apply an order nationally in a case brought by Chicago and that it should only apply to that city. The DOJ letter suggests New Orleans' failure to meet its measure of compliance could put the city at risk for losing federal grant funding.

The Justice Department review brought better news for others.

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