Sessions cracks down on cities over immigration
Albuquerque, Baltimore, Stockton, San Bernardino singled out by Justice
ALBUQUERQUE» 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.
Baltimore, Albuquerque and Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif., all 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, similar to how previous administrations have held back highway funds during debates over the speed limit and drinking age.
But it was not immediately clear to some of the cities why they were targeted.
In a letter to Sessions, Republican Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry denied that New Mexico’s largest city is a sanctuary for immigrants living in the country illegally 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.