Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in keeping with the Trump administration's hardline stance against undocumented immigrants, announced Monday that the Department of Justice will sever federal grant money to sanctuary cities.
Sessions issued the statement during an appearance in the White House briefing room. He warned sanctuary cities—communities that refuse to comply with federal immigration officials—that they would be punished. In withholding DOJ grant money from cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, Sessions will cut off funds that typically assist local police departments in aiding victims of crime, providing research, and training their staff, according to the DOJ website.
“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk," Sessions said at the briefing, "especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators." He urged sanctuary cities to "rethink" their policies.
It's perhaps no coincidence that Sessions made this announcement on the same day as city and state legislators gathered in New York for The National Convening on Sanctuary Cities to discuss how to reinforce and strengthen sanctuary cities. News of Sessions' announcement traveled quickly through the conference.
"Sessions makes it sound as if we're breaking the law, but the point is it's voluntary whether or not to cooperate in 99% of these instances," Lourdes Rosado, chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York attorney general's office, directly addressing Sessions' announcement during a panel.
At around the same time Sessions made his remarks, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, citing Trump's executive order, signed a law banning sanctuary cities from the state.
Before Sessions' announcement, federal agencies appeared to have already pushed back at some sanctuary cities, with one federal judge calling out an ICE raid in Austin, TX, as possible retribution for its sanctuary status.
Additional reporting by Nidhi Prakash.