The Justice Department broadened its effort to rein in sanctuary cities Thursday, announcing new conditions on four grant programs designed to pressure localities to provide information and access to federal immigration authorities.
Localities looking for money from the grant programs will have to certify that they allow officers to report on the status of illegal immigrants, they allow deportation officers access to their jails and they will give advance notice before releasing people the government wants to detain.
As a brand-new condition, localities will have to certify they comply with federal laws against harboring or smuggling illegal immigrants.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling the new conditions a way to “encourage these ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions to change their policies.”
The conditions will apply to people seeking money in fiscal year 2018 from four programs intended to help localities target chronic crime problems, reduce recidivism rates, address gang recruitment of youths and try to limit the spread of gang territory.
The administration has already attached conditions to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program and Community Oriented Policing hiring grants.
Those moves sparked a series of lawsuits from localities that objected, saying they feared they were being recruited to enforce immigration laws. The lawsuits are still being fought in the courts, with mixed results.
The Trump administration won a round this week when a federal appeals court limited a previous injunction to Chicago, allowing the government to impose conditions on other cities seeking Byrne grant money.
That freed up nearly $200 million, which the department said it will start doling out.
The cash had been on hold while the case was fought.
In yet another challenge brought by Philadelphia, a judge ruled all three of the original Byrne grant conditions illegal.
That judge even said Section 1373 of the immigration code, which explicitly requires localities to allow police to share information on people’s immigration status, was an unconstitutional “commandeering” of local authorities.
In Thursday’s conditions, the government not only continues to cite Section 1373, but also adds in another similar section of law, Section 1644, which also demands localities not stop information-sharing on immigrants’ legal status.
The Justice Department said the four new grant solicitations will give preference to jurisdictions that are more open to “immigration cooperation tactics.”
Several sanctuary jurisdictions battling the government didn’t provide comment on the new conditions, but in the past they have said they feel the more they cooperate with federal immigration authorities, the worse the level of trust between themselves and immigrant-heavy communities.
Federal authorities counter that the conditions generally focus on getting access to prisons and jails, where they are going after migrants with criminal records — exactly the people immigrant rights activists say should be the focus of deportations.
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