After taking extensive action to crack down on the unlawful policies of so-called sanctuary cities, the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have taken another step aimed at penalizing jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement officials.
On Monday, the Attorney General released a memo providing clarity on the definition of a sanctuary city. According to the signed document, he and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have decided that a sanctuary city refers “only to jurisdictions that ‘willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.’”
Section 1373 requires state and local governments to cooperate with immigration law enforcement, though many cities, like San Francisco, have created policies that prohibit their workers from providing citizenship information even if requested by federal officials.
The memo also clears the path for greater restriction of federal dollars to cities that harbor illegal immigrants.
The move comes as a response to Obama-appointed judge William Orrick, who, in April, struck down President Trump’s January executive action seeking to withhold funds from sanctuary cities. Though Orrick’s sweeping decision claimed that federal entitlement funds like welfare and Medicaid could not be withheld, he added the caveat that his injunction would not block the government from withholding grants that are contingent upon compliance with federal immigration laws.
By directly addressing the nature of funds being withheld from such cities, Sessions strengthened the Justice Department’s position in preventing sanctuary cities from receiving certain federal funds.
“…Over the years, the Department has tailored grants to focus on, among other things, homeland security, violent crime (including drug and gang activity), and domestic violence. Going forward, the Department, where authorized, may seek to tailor grants to promote a lawful system of immigration,” the memo says.