Sanctuary cities threatened with loss of federal grant money

The letters give the jurisdictions until June 30 to prove that they are compliant with 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, a 1996 federal law that prohibits local governments from restricting communication with the feds about the immigration status of inmates.

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. But some of the localities remained defiant, despite risking the loss of funds that police agencies use to pay for everything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

Playing off Sessions' recent comments that sanctuary cities undermine the fight against gangs, the Justice Department said the communities under financial threat are "crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime". Each letter was signed by Alan R. Hanson, the acting director of the Office of Justice Programs, which administers the Byrne law enforcement grant program. However, local leaders say they will go against it even if that means losing federal funding.

"Ideally the best place for us to pick up these illegal criminals is in jails and prisons", Kelly said at a news conference with Sessions in San Diego, next to a border fence topped with razor wire.

"We did not become the safest city in America by being 'soft on crime, '" de Blasio said, standing with the city's police commissioner, James P. O'Neill, both stone-faced, in Police Headquarters. New York City, the largest jurisdiction addressed by Sessions' letters, receives $9 million a year in DOJ grants.

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"As made very clear in the department's release, it is New York City's policies that are soft on crime", the Department of Justice said.

Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio calls the "soft on crime" characterization "absolutely outrageous".

He said his police department, by far the nation's largest, locked up more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns previous year.

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.

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.

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The grants in question are among the largest handed out under the program, collectively amounting to 11 percent of the $256 million distributed in the last fiscal year.

Zach Butterworth says the city has no problem and drafted its policies in consultation with federal immigration and homeland security officials.

On Friday, Nisha Agarwal, commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs in NY, said the city was prepared to respond by the June 30 deadline. "I think we feel confident that that will happen, that we will avoid a shutdown". Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said the city and county were wrongly labeled sanctuary cities. "My far greater concern is the proactive dissemination of misinformation, fear, and intolerance", said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Lombardo says the Clark County jail assigns guards to notify ICE about risky immigrant criminals during booking.

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