Published: Tue, May 23, 2017
Entertaiment | By Lawrence Myers

Sessions may put more rules on money for sanctuary cities


The guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes clear that the actual policies the administration will pursue are narrower than described by the rhetoric from President Donald Trump.

The new filing comes in the wake of a memo released on Monday in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally endorsed a narrower interpretation of Trump's order, saying that the only funds the government meant to withhold were certain grants tied to law enforcement programs. Orrick rejected that argument in a ruling in April that blocked the executive order.

Orrick cited Trump's reference to the order as a "weapon" as evidence that the administration meant to cut off a broad swath of federal funding, not just three U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security grants as government attorneys argued.

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In a memo released Monday, Sessions said he is defining sanctuary jurisdictions as places that "willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373", a provision in federal law that bans communities from prohibiting or restricting the sharing of immigration information with federal immigration officers. Sessions has taken steps to revoke federal funding from nine jurisdictions, each of which insists that it has complied with the law.

In Providence, Mayor Jorge Elorza has repeatedly referred to the city as a sanctuary for immigrants while also maintaining that it fully complies with federal immigration laws.

Providence received $2.7 million in Justice Department grants between 2013 and 2016, according to an Eyewitness News review of federal grants awarded to the city.

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The Justice Department is looking for more ways to deny coveted federal grant money to so-called sanctuary cities. The judge said the administration intended the executive order to apply broadly to all sorts of federal funding.

Until now, no official definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction has existed.

The administration earlier this year began issuing a weekly report of so-called "declined detainers" - requests made to local law enforcement to hold individuals up to 48 hours beyond what would be legally required so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can pick them up on immigration-related concerns.

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The memo from Sessions will probably stir some relief among a broad swath of US cities, including the nine that the Trump administration has labeled sanctuary jurisdictions so far. Estimates of the number of sanctuary cities has varied from more than 100 to about 600. The order signed by the president said sanctuary cities "are not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes".

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