Justice Department Threatens California 'Sanctuary Cities' with Subpoenas

Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence said the Justice Department’s letter came as a surprise because the city had not given the them any reason to think the city was hiding anything

The White House working session on the economy, opioid crisis, and infrastructure - which took place Wednesday afternoon - came as the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter warning almost two dozen jurisdictions that they could risk losing crucial federal grants if they do not change their policies reflecting leniency towards immigrants. California became a sanctuary state after its ultra-liberal governor, Jerry Brown, signed the California Values Act into law last October 5.

Trump is ramping up efforts to attach some costs to localities and states that refuse to comply with federal law.

"Our immigrants are our own people and we care about all of them", he said.

In November, the DOJ sent letters to cities and states around the U.S.

Twenty-three jurisdictions received letters Wednesday, including the states of Illinois, Oregon, and California.

"I will NOT be attending today's meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump's Department of Justice chose to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities", he wrote, adding that the move "doesn't make us safer and it violates America's core values".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has blamed "sanctuary city" policies for crime and gang violence.

The latest salvo in the ongoing disagreement over sanctuary cities-localities that don't report immigration status of arrestees to federal officials-provoked strong reaction from the mayors, who ultimately made a decision to skip a scheduled meeting with the President. The Justice Department cites a federal law requiring information sharing, and says jurisdictions that don't comply aren't eligible to receive Byrne Justice Assistance Grants. This sets up a classic constituional showdown between states who are seeking to nullify federal law and the government that seeks to enforce it. "And by the way, everything they've asked for, cities have done... if the attorney general and Homeland Security would put a definition down on the paper, we can actually help them", Landrieu said.

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For example, the Supreme Court has said that conditions may not be imposed on federal grants unless they are "unambiguously" stated in the statute "so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds" with the attached conditions and restrictions.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was former President Obama's White House chief of staff in 2009 and 2010, complained, "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".

The cities were told to submit the documents by February 23 or be subpoenaed and have the Justice Department withhold millions of dollars in grants for their police departments.

Other mayors from major USA cities across the country also expressed their displeasure at the DOJ's decision, calling it insulting and saying they were already in compliance with federal immigration law.

The Justice Department launched its offensive previous year, warning jurisdictions that federal grants were contingent on notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when an undocumented immigrant was in local custody, and holding the suspect for 48 hours so federal authorities could visit the facility.

A senior Justice Department official, who held a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, said the government was not taking a contradictory stance by threatening to cut off crime-fighting grants. In September, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw pledged his agency would cooperate with federal immigration agents.

"Together, we will use every legally viable tool at our disposal to protect the American people from risky criminal aliens and from the people that place their protection over the protection of law-abiding citizens", the official said.

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