US Attorney General Jeff Sessions [official profile] said during Monday’s White House news briefing [transcript] that cities failing to enforce immigration laws may be cut off from Justice Department [official website] grants. Sessions’ statement was directed [Reuters report] towards so-called “sanctuary cities,” such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, which have implemented policies prohibiting officers from performing routine immigration checks and only detaining immigrants under investigation for the minimal amount of time required. Sessions has argued for the need to protect communities and cooperate with federal immigration authorities:
The President has rightly said, disregard for the law must end. In his executive order, he stated that it is the policy of the executive branch to ensure that states and cities comply with all federal laws, including all immigration laws. Today, I’m urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws, including 8 USC Section 1373 [text]. Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with 1373 as a condition of receiving those awards.
Critics, however, have labeled the threat as “blackmail” and stated that enforcing such immigration policies may damage trust in police forces.
Immigration has been a particular focus of US President Donald Trump [official website], culminating in lawsuits challenging [JURIST report] his controversial executive orders affecting migrants. In January, seven days after his inauguration, Trump issued an immigration-related executive order [text], which limited migration from seven Muslim-majority countries, among other changes. A lower court order blocking enforcement of that order was upheld [JURIST report] in February by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website]. An amended executive order [text], issued in early March, was also blocked by district courts in Hawaii and Maryland [JURIST report]. Additional challenges to the revised policy are pending, including one brought by Washington and joined [JURIST report] by California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Thursday ordered [JURIST report] an expedited schedule for the appeal of a lower court ruling blocking Trump’s travel ban executive order. On Friday a federal judge affirmed [JURIST report] Trump’s authority to issue his second travel ban executive order. Nevertheless, Trump’s policies have been criticized as part of a larger overhaul of the country’s approach to immigration undertaken by the new administration, largely departing [JURIST op-ed] from the policies of other post-WWII presidents.