WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday questioned whether some so-called sanctuary cities responded honestly when asked whether they follow the law on sharing the citizenship status of people in their custody with federal immigration authorities.
In a strongly worded statement, the department said some of the 10 jurisdictions under scrutiny insist they are compliant with the law, while they defiantly refuse to cooperate with efforts to detain and deport immigrants living in the country illegally. The Justice Department said it was reviewing policies of the jurisdictions to determine whether they should lose some federal grant money for failing to prove they are adhering to federal immigration law.
The cities include New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia, which said in its letter to the department that the city was adhering to the law even while refusing to collect information on residents’ immigration statuses.
Also on the list are two states — California and Connecticut — along with Miami-Dade County in Florida; Cook County in Illinois; Milwaukee County in Wisconsin; and Clark County in Nevada.
The cities were singled out last year by the department’s inspector general for having rules that hinder the ability of local law enforcement to communicate with federal officials about the immigration status of people they have detained. The cities disagreed with that assessment, saying their rules comport with the specific section of federal law that bars municipalities from forcing local officials to keep certain information from federal immigration authorities.
“They are having it both ways now,” said Leon Fresco, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Ligation during the Obama administration. “The cities are saying, we will not in any way do anything that affirmatively increases the amount of immigration enforcement that is occurring in our city. Having said that, if a federal official asks us for information, we will provide this information.”
The move was the latest by the Trump administration to crack down on locations that have been characterized as sanctuary cities.
Associated Press writer Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this report.