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DOJ to Chicago: Drop ‘Sanctuary City’ Laws or Lose Federal Funding

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned Chicago and three other cities to get into compliance with federal laws or risk losing federal grants. (Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Department of Justice says it’s giving local officials a “last chance” to drop so-called “sanctuary city” policies and get into compliance with federal law or risk losing grant money moving forward.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the warning to officials in Cook County, Chicago and three other major cities this week, saying sanctuary laws in place within their jurisdictions may violate federal law and “undermine the safety of their residents.”

“Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Sessions said in a statement.

“We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with Section 1373 but to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process criminal aliens.”

The section Sessions references, Section 1373, is a federal statute barring local and state governments from limiting communication regarding residents’ immigration or citizenship status with federal officials.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in separate letters penned Wednesday to Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, highlights several active policies designed to shield undocumented immigrants from being unduly targeted by law enforcement entities.

Document: Read the DOJ’s letters to CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Both the city and the county have identical ordinances on the books preventing local law enforcement from “expend(ing) their time responding to (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inquiries or communicating with ICE regarding” individuals’ incarceration status or release dates while on duty. The DOJ says this restricts the sharing of information regarding undocumented immigrants.

Other policies highlighted in the letters keep CPD officers and Cook County Sheriff’s deputies from assisting in investigations into residents’ immigration status, or from requesting information about their immigration status unless required by law.

The county previously submitted a legal opinion to the DOJ in July certifying its own compliance with federal law, according to Preckwinkle’s spokesman Frank Shuftan.

“Although we have not received a formal response from DOJ to date, we have been informed by the media that, following a preliminary assessment, the DOJ disagrees with the legal opinion we submitted,” he said in a statement.

“The County has since pulled a copy of the correspondence from the DOJ website which challenges a County Ordinance and Resolution. The County maintains that it is in compliance with all applicable federal laws, and is currently evaluating what additional response and action may be required.”

The cities of New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans are also out of compliance with federal law, according to the DOJ.

In August, the city of Chicago sued Sessions over its efforts to stop federal money from going to sanctuary cities through Byrne Justice Assistance Grants. The city has been receiving these funds since 2005, spending $33 million on equipment and nearly 1,000 police vehicles over the years.

“Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference announcing that suit.

Spokesmen for CPD and the mayor did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.

Chicago and Cook County have until Oct. 27 to submit a response before the DOJ makes its final determination.

Follow Matt Masterson on Twitter: @ByMattMasterson

Related stories:

Chicago Sues Trump Administration Over ‘Sanctuary City’ Policy

Aug. 7: “Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Sunday at a press conference announcing the suit.

City Council Passes Ordinance on Registry Programs

July 3: City officials say the ordinance affirms that government agencies will not practice discrimination-based operations, but some activists say the city could do more to protect immigrant and minority rights.

Sanctuary City Stare Down

Jan. 25: Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city that harbors undocumented immigrants is on thin ice, but the mayor and other city leaders say they aren’t backing down.

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