Department of Justice on Friday reprimanded eight so-called "sanctuary cities" via letters for failing to adhere to federal requests to detain illegal immigrants. Detainer requests are sent to local jurisdictions from federal immigration agencies asking for authorities to keep certain immigrants in custody until they can be taken into federal keeping. The letters were signed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson.
 
Chicago, Cook County, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, and Sacramento received letters. 
 
The letter warned that the “sanctuary cities” may lose certain federal grants if they fail to prove they are in compliance with federal law that requires them to communicate with federal officials on immigration matters. The statute, 8 USC § 1373, prohibits local and state governments from enacting laws or policies that limit communication with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Customs and Border Protection (ICE) about "information regarding the immigration or citizenship status."
 
Justice Department "expects each of these jurisdictions to comply with this grant condition and to submit all documentation to the Office of Justice Programs by June 30, 2017, the deadline imposed by the grant agreement." the letters from Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson read.
 
These cities and others that have been dubbed "sanctuary" cities say they are not in violation of the federal statute because it does not require compliance with ICE requests such as detainers or requests for notification of release dates. The statute only prohibits the enactment of certain policies about sharing immigration status, which they say they do not do.
 
All cities could lose the Office of Justice Programs Byrne Justice Assistance Grants if not in compliance. Justice Assistance Grants provides “federal criminal justice funding to state, local and tribal jurisdictions" for personnel, training, equipment, and supplies.
 
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both promised to strictly enforce federal immigration law while addressing sanctuary policies in order to address crime and public safety. Sessions is now on his second tour of the U.S.-Mexico border with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, visiting El Paso, Texas, on Thursday and San Diego on Friday.


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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