The Justice Department Sent A Letter Threatening To Pull Funding From “Sanctuary Cities”

The Trump administration is trying to make good on a promise to punish cities that it believes are harboring illegal immigrants. Despite the tough talk, the cities targeted will likely continue to resist Trump's demands.

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President’s Trump’s Department of Justice sent a warning to nine jurisdictions Friday as part of the administration’s promise to crackdown on “sanctuary cities.”

In a letter from the Justice Department, officials asked for proof that the cities are cooperating with immigration enforcement, noting that they are at risk of losing funds from federal grants.

The letters were addressed to officials in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, Illinois' Cook County, and the California Board of State and Community Corrections.

Each jurisdiction has said that it will not share with federal officials immigration information on those in custody who are in the country illegally.

The DOJ letter calls for each jurisdiction to submit proof by June 30 that they are complying with the Trump administration's enforcement strategy. Failing to do so, the letter says, “could result in the withholding of [2016] grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, [or] ineligibility for future” federal funding programs.

The DOJ made the letters public on Friday. In a press release accompanying the letter, the department wrote, “many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime":

The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels. New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city's “soft on crime” stance. And just several weeks ago in California’s Bay Area, after a raid captured 11 MS-13 members on charges including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next.

Despite this claim that New York is “soft on crime,” last month NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced “historic reductions in crime” through the first three months of 2017. In a report, the NYPD cited a 8.7% drop in crime overall in March compared to last year. Police also said that the city had the “safest first quarter” of the modern crime-tracking era. (The 2016 murder rate in Chicago, however, did increase by 58% over the previous year).

Officials from New York and other cities have been vocal about their intentions to resist the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement mandate, saying they’re prepared to go to court over the “sanctuary city” issue. Last month, Seattle sued Trump over the “sanctuary city” threat.

On Friday, Seth Stein, a spokesperson for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, blasted the Trump administration over the letter.

“This is nothing new. This grandstanding shows how out of touch the Trump administration is with reality,” Stein said in a statement to Politico. “Contrary to their alternative facts, New York is the safest big city in the country, with crime at record lows in large part because we have policies in place to encourage cooperation between NYPD and immigrant communities.”

The letter also received a scathing rebuke from California state leaders, including Senate leader Kevin de Leon.

"It has become abundantly clear that Attorney General Sessions and the Trump Administration are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy - not American values," De Leon said. "Their constant and systematic targeting of diverse cities and states goes beyond constitutional norms and will be challenged at every level."

The state's attorney general also weighed in, promising safeguards for all people in the state.

“California has a right to determine how it will provide for the safety and general welfare of its residents and to safeguard their constitutional rights," the state's attorney general Xavier Becerra told BuzzFeed News in statement.

"Fear mongering and falsehoods will not intimidate our state into compromising our values," Becerra said. "Federal threats to take away resources from law enforcement or our people in an attempt to bully states and localities into carrying out the new administration’s unsound deportation plan are reckless and jeopardize public safety.”

Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mike Hayes at mike@buzzfeed.com.

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