Justice Dept. warns sanctuary cities in immigration fight

Sen.de León's comments come after the Department of Justice warned the state of California that it could lose $20 million in criminal justice grants should it fail to enforce policies under the new administration's immigration crackdown.

The DOJ sent letters to officials in the state of California and eight localities: New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee and Sacramento.

The Associated Press said the letters warned officials they must provide proof from an attorney that they are following the law or risk losing thousands of dollars in federal grant money that police agencies use to fund anything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

The Justice Department gives out $2.2 billion every year to help fund crime-fighting efforts, according to The Los Angeles Times.

On a visit to the southern border on Friday, Sessions described de León's claim as "kind of extremist statement that I totally reject", urging jurisdictions such as California and NY to "reconsider" their position.

The DOJ press release said numerous jurisdictions are plagued by violent crime and illegal immigration and singled out three jurisdictions in particular.

A spokeswoman for the California Board of State and Community Corrections said some of the funding in question has been distributed to local communities after emergencies in the past.

Proponents of sanctuary jurisdictions argue that turning over undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would diminish community trust of police and undermine public safety.

A Justice Department statement accompanying the letters also claimed that illegal immigration into the U.S. has served to increase crime these cities.

"It has become abundantly clear that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy - not American values", de León said in a statement. Most often, these are immigrants who were charged with or convicted of minor crimes. It said in a news release that New York City's gang murders are "the predictable outcome of the city's "soft on crime" stance".

Spicer would not say whether Trump would refuse to sign a spending bill - and possibly trigger a government shutdown - if Congress does not include the measures in legislation that must pass by next Friday, when the legislation that is now funding the government expires.

The Department of Justice was referring to the February release of an 18-year-old from Rikers Island even though he had been ordered deported by an immigration judge. CNBC reached out to the Justice Department for copies of the letters but didn't immediately hear back.

Justice Department records show New Orleans received almost $266,000 in grant money through the program in fiscal 2016.

"I think it's cause for concern", said Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor who now works with newly elected district attorneys and state attorneys.

Oakland, San Francisco and Pasadena have identified the sanctuary city funding cutoff as a lobbying priority in Washington, federal records show.

  • Larry Hoffman