Sanctuary cities threatened with loss of federal grant money

In a statement, the Justice Department singled out Chicago and New York as two cities that are "crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime", even though New York City is experiencing its lowest crime levels in decades and experts say Chicago's recent spike in violent crime has little to do with illegal immigration.

Mayor's spokesman Seth Stein calls that "alternative facts". In March, he vowed to "claw back" funding to the immigrant-friendly cities after Trump signed an executive order in January to strip federal funding from the so-called sanctuary cities.

Through April 16 the city had seen 74 killings in 2017, according to the police department, which would put it on pace to have the fewest number of murders since it began keeping accurate records on homicides. Following the report, the Obama administration warned cities that they could miss out on grant money if they did not comply with the law, but it never actually withheld funds. However, local leaders say they will go against it even if that means losing federal funding.

Washington ramped up the pressure on "sanctuary cities", jurisdictions that provide limited cooperation with federal immigration authorities on new policies introduced by President Trump's administration.

And that's exactly what sanctuary cities are counting on.

Kevin de Leon, leader of California's state Senate, rejected the administration's demand, saying its policies are based on "principles of white supremacy" and not American values. "It is an outrageous statement and absurd on its face, and ignores a quarter century of progress in this city in bringing down crime", de Blasio said, adding that the city just marked its safest three months in history. "Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars".

That prompted Preet Bharara, the former USA attorney for New York's Southern District, to question why the Justice Department "would ignorantly malign" the New York Police Department. He noted that the law referenced in the Justice Department's letter was on the books before President Donald Trump took office.

The letters give the jurisdictions until June 30 to prove that they are compliant with 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, a 1996 federal law that prohibits local governments from restricting communication with the feds about the immigration status of inmates.

Justice Department records show New Orleans received almost $266,000 in grant money through the program in fiscal 2016.

"Sanctuary cities" in general offer safe harbor to illegal immigrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he believes lawful systems of immigration should be enforced and that the American people are exhausted of illegal immigration.

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