The U.S. Justice Department is threatening the District of Columbia and 28 other states and jurisdictions with a loss of millions of dollars in federal crime-fighting funds.
The Justice Department says in a new letter to the local governments that they have so-called sanctuary city policies that may undercut federal immigration enforcement.
The District and other jurisdictions have until Dec. 8 to certify that local policies don’t conflict with federal enforcement.
The District stands to initially lose about $1.7 million. D.C. is the only Washington-area government affected by the letter.
The Justice Department contends an order by Mayor Muriel Bower restricts police from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The mayor’s order bars local law enforcement and other agencies from routinely inquiring about the immigration status of anyone arrested.
D.C. contends it is not an agent of federal immigration authorities and that questioning immigration status would make people reluctant to cooperate with police or seek medical treatment or social programs.
The DOJ would cut funding to "important violence-prevention efforts," D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement.
“Our utmost priority is ensuring the safety of all of our residents, regardless of their immigration status. DOJ’s threat to cut off funding for important public safety programs is counterproductive and wrong-headed. Our city is safer when all our residents trust local law enforcement. The District is in compliance with all federal laws. We will review DOJ’s letter and are prepared to defend our residents however necessary.”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton tweeted that the District "will not be intimidated by the Trump administration. We will continue to protect our immigrant residents as they continue to contribute so much to our city."
Mayor Bowser reiterated Racine and Norton's statements and tweeted "#leaveusalone."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to get tough on jurisdictions that limit sharing information on immigration.
Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have filed lawsuits against the Justice Department. The cities contend DOJ does not have the authority to withhold federal grants over immigration issues. The courts have temporarily blocked the Justice Department from withholding any grants until the court suits are resolved.
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