Trump Targets Nine ‘Sanctuary Cities’ In His Immigration Crackdown

These jurisdictions must prove they are complying with a federal immigration law — or lose funding

Photo Illustration: Diana Quach
Apr 21, 2017 at 2:54 PM ET

The Trump administration ratcheted up its attack on so-called sanctuary cities Friday, placing nine jurisdictions believed to be lax on illegal immigration firmly in its crosshairs.

In a letter sent to the state of California, an Illinois county, and seven large cities around the U.S., the Justice Department demanded proof that these areas are cooperating with federal immigration officials — and threatened to yank federal grant money from those that fail to do so. The recipients, which included Las Vegas, Miami, and New York City, all landed on a Justice Department inspector general report last year that found they had policies that limited the information local law enforcement could provide to federal agents about undocumented immigrants in custody.

More How Sanctuary Cities Could Shatter Trump’s Deportation Fantasy

The latest warning shot comes nearly a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to crack down on immigrant sanctuaries that refuse to work with the federal government in deporting undocumented residents. According to the Justice Department letter, the targeted jurisdictions will have until June 30 to certify they have complied with a federal law that prohibits local authorities from instructing their personnel to withhold information from federal officials about a person’s immigration status.

“Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future O.J.P. grants or subgrants, or other action, as appropriate,” reads the letter, which was also sent to officials in: Chicago; Cook County, Illinois; Milwaukee; New Orleans, and; Philadelphia. O.J.P. is the Office of Justice Programs which doles out billions of dollars in grants for crime-fighting efforts around the country.

While there’s no exact definition, immigrant sanctuaries — which number in the hundreds around the U.S. — generally refer to jurisdictions that do not cooperate fully with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Some cities, counties, and even college campuses do so by prohibiting local law enforcement from asking about a person’s immigration status. Others have police forces that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants for minor offenses or honor all deportation requests made by the federal government.