Sessions cracks down on immigrant “sanctuary cities,”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions took new steps Thursday to punish cities he believes are not cooperating with federal immigration agents in a move that was met with bewilderment by local officials who said they did not know why they were being singled out.
The Justice Department sent letters to four cities struggling with gun violence, telling them they would not be eligible for a program that provides money to combat drug trafficking and gang crime unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and notify agents before releasing inmates wanted on immigration violations.
The cities — Baltimore, Albuquerque, and Stockton and San Bernardino in California — all had expressed interest in the Justice Department’s Public Safety Partnership, which enlists federal agents, analysts and technology to help communities find solutions to crime.
“By taking simple, commonsense considerations into account, we are encouraging every jurisdiction in this country to cooperate with federal law enforcement,” Sessions said in a statement that accompanied the letters.
The threat marks Sessions’ latest effort to force local authorities to help federal agents detain and deport people living in the country illegally as part of a push to reduce crime he believes is linked to illegal immigration. The attorney general has repeatedly vowed to withhold federal money from cities that do not cooperate.
But it was not immediately clear to some of the cities why they were targeted.
In a letter to Sessions, Republican Mayor Richard Berry denied Albuquerque is a do-called “sanctuary city” and said he has been trying to work with immigration authorities since taking office in 2009. In fact, Berry said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement staffing at the prison transport center fell in recent years.
“If your agency has questions or concerns with our (Bernalillo) County jails, I would refer you to their leadership,” Berry wrote.
Another concern raised by cities is that police who patrol the streets book suspects into jails run by county or state authorities over which they have no control. The Justice Department’s letters focus on giving federal immigration agents access to such detention facilities.
The Kimo Theater is on Route 66 in Albuquerque, N.M. The city’s mayor told Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a letter that Albuquerque is not a “sanctuary city” and that he has tried to work with immigration authorities since taking office in 2009.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions singled out four cities.