Sessions: Trump administration ready to take back money given to sanctuary cities

Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined Monday how the Trump administration will use federal funds to crack down on “sanctuary cities” and states that choose not to comply with federal immigration laws, as it has threatened to do since January.

Cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and others have long declined to enforce federal immigration laws aggressively, setting up a conflict with the hardline stance of the new administration, led by President Donald Trump and Sessions.

On Monday, Sessions reiterated that cities and states hoping to receive federal funds or grants must comply with the law that outlines how a state or locality may not restrict a government entity sending citizenship or immigrant status to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, though he did not specify which cities or which funds the department may claw back as it has threatened.

“The Department of Justice will require the jurisdiction seeking or applying for DOJ grants to certify compliance with 1373 as a condition of receiving those awards,” Sessions said, adding that the Trump administration will use “all lawful steps to clawback” all funds that have already gone to states or cities that “willfully violate” the law.

Sessions urged “our nation’s states and cities to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens” by opting to be sanctuary cities, telling reporters that the Justice Department anticipates awarding more than $4.1 billion in grants through its Office of Justice Programs and Community Oriented Policing Services.

President Barack Obama’s administration, in a letter to a member of Congress asking for guidance on sanctuary cities, also articulated how they required all grant applicants to combat with “all acceptable Federal statues, regulations, policies, guideline and requirements.

Some legal experts believe Trump can’t force sanctuary cities to comply with federal laws by withholding funds.

Erwin Chemerinsky, Annie Lai and Seth Davis, professors at the University of California at Irvine School of Law, wrote in December that “the federal government can no more require state and local governments to help it carry out mass deportations than it can require local officers to investigate and enforce federal gun laws.”

Trump “ignores the 10th Amendment, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly interpreted to prevent the federal government from ‘commandeering’ state and local governments by requiring them to enforce federal mandates,” they wrote in The Washington Post.

Sessions’ announcement also followed an executive order Trump signed in January that was designed to crack down on sanctuary cities by stripping “federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants.”

Many mayors, despite Trump’s order, have said they intend to stand firm against the administration.

“I want to make very clear,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after the executive order. “We are going to stay a sanctuary city.”

“San Francisco is a sanctuary city and will not waiver in its commitment to protect the rights of all its residents,” San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said in January.