The Trump administration has sent letters to officials of places that the Justice Department's inspector general listed as providing limited information to federal immigration authorities, particularly on local law enforcement and custody records.
And that's exactly what sanctuary cities are counting on.
The department said Friday in a statement NY "continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable effect of the city's "soft on crime" stance".
The U.S. Department of Justice threatened on Friday to cut some funding to California as well as eight cities and counties across the United States, escalating a Trump administration crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
New York City's mayor and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions are battling over a Department of Justice statement accusing the city of being "soft on crime".
So nakedly political is the Justice Department's attack that Sessions felt compelled to clarify that his beef was with Mayor de Blasio alone, not a city that "has done some great things in criminal justice".
Statewide, roughly $20 million in federal law enforcement grant funding is at risk this year, according to Tracie Cone, a spokeswoman for the Board of State and Community Corrections.
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Kevin de Leon, leader of California's state Senate, rejected the administration's demand, saying its policies are based on "principles of white supremacy" and not American values.
The Los Angeles Democrat says the administration's targeting of diverse cities and states goes beyond constitutional norms and will continue to be challenged. The department says it will withhold important grant money unless the county follows a federal immigration law.
The agency cited the rising murder rate in Chicago and cast blame for gang murders in NY on what it labeled a "soft on crime" stance. The letter warned that federal grant money could be withheld if the city can't document cooperation. In March, he vowed to "claw back" funding to the immigrant-friendly cities after Trump signed an executive order in January to strip federal funding from the so-called sanctuary cities.
That prompted Preet Bharara, the former USA attorney for New York's Southern District, to question why the Justice Department "would ignorantly malign" the New York Police Department.
"Attorney General Sessions is supposed to be the leading law enforcement official in America", de Blasio said. That city received almost $266,000 in grant money through the program in fiscal year 2016.
Many municipalities and law enforcement in sanctuary areas have also refused to help enforce immigration law and share information with federal authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Zach Butterworth, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's executive counsel and director of federal relations, said the city drafted its policies in consultation with federal immigration and Homeland Security officials.