On Friday, letters threatening to withhold federal grant money were sent from the Department of Justice to officials in communities across the United States.
Every jurisdiction which received a letter has so-called “sanctuary” policies, meaning that officials there will not directly cooperate with federal immigration authorities—something the DOJ is hoping to change with its vow to make the areas poorer if they don’t start sending helping deport undocumented immigrants.
According to the Washington Post, the letters were sent to New Orleans; Philadelphia; the city of Chicago; Clark County, NV; Miami-Dade County, FL; Milwaukee County, WI; Cook County, IL, and New York City. A letter was also sent to California state officials. All of them demanded that the recipients comply with laws ordering them to collaborate with federal immigration officials when it comes to targeting undocumented immigrants. The cities which received the threatening letters have until July 30 of this year to provide documentation showing they are in compliance with federal immigration law.
In a statement, the DOJ made its contempt for the recipients of the letters clear.
“Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the department said.
The Friday letter immediately backfired, though, thanks to its somewhat nonsensical condemnation of New York City, which the DOJ said “continues to see gang murder after gang murder,” something it called “the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.”
However, as the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein pointed out on Twitter using FBI crime statistics from the past few years, New York is actually significantly safer than Session’s native Alabama.
What’s more, nobody who had been stopped and frisked, cited for performing on the subway or targeted by aggressive “broken windows” tactics would ever describe New York as being under-policed. But in the mind of the Trump-era DOJ, any criminal justice system that isn’t frantically handing over every immigrant in sight to federal agents is bringing about the apocalypse.
The DOJ’s letters come after attorney general Jeff Sessions himself made similar threats during a press conference in late March.
“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk,” Sessions said at the time, “especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”
Earlier this year, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency rolled out its long-promised public list of sanctuary cities, in an attempt to shame the communities into complying with federal guidelines. Shortly thereafter, an ICE official told Fusion that the agency is “temporarily suspending the publication of the...reports.” The cessation came after multiple local law enforcement agencies questioned the report’s accuracy.