Trump administration threatens to defund sanctuary cities

Andrew Buncombe
Mr Trump signed an order in January to withdraw funds from cities that did not cooperate with immigration authorities: AP

The Trump administration has dispatched letters to officials in sanctuary cities, threatening to withhold federal funds if they refuse to cooperate with an immigration crackdown.

In the latest effort to lever those communities that have said they will not cooperate with Donald Trump’s proposals, the US Department of Justice sent letters to nine cities and jurisdictions, warning them to fall into line.

Alan Hanson, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s grant-making arm, warned the cities that they are required by law to provide proof to they are complying with federal immigration law.

“Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future… grants, or other action, as appropriate,” Mr Hanson wrote.

The letters went to officials in California and in major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, all places the Justice Department's inspector general has identified as limiting the information local law enforcement can provide to federal immigration authorities about those in their custody.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has increasingly warned the administration will punish communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Justice Department said the recipients of its letters were “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime”.


The Associated Press said the letters warned officials they must provide proof from an attorney that they are following the law or risk losing thousands of dollars in federal grant money that police agencies use to fund anything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

“Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future OJP grants or sub-grants, or other action, as appropriate,” said the letter.

A series of cities have resisted the Trump administration's threats. Seattle, which was not one of the places targeted with a letter, and other jurisdictions have sued the Trump administration over the sanctuary issue.

Earlier this week, Mr Sessions accused sanctuary cities of undermining law enforcement efforts to fight transnational street gangs.

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