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Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions criticizes 'sanctuary cities' but offers no new policies

Decrying the safety risk posed when cities don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions repeated previous statements that the Trump administration would seek to deny so-called sanctuary cities some federal grant funds, but offered no new policies.

Despite his high-profile appearance at the White House briefing room, Sessions merely reiterated Obama administration policy related to immigration. Justice Department officials said any new measures would be “weeks or months” in the future.

The Obama administration issued instructions last July that required any cities applying for Justice Department grant programs be in compliance with federal law requiring cooperation between local, state and federal agencies with requests from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Sessions noted that any jurisdiction applying for grants from his department would have to certify that compliance. The Justice Department already has been requiring that, which indicates that police and sheriff departments which currently have Justice Department grants already have been asserting that they are meeting the requirements of federal law.

Although many cities have policies that they, or critics, characterize using the label “sanctuary,” those policies do not necessarily mean they are violating the law.

Sessions did say that the Justice Department could in the future institute additional requirements, but announced none. 

"Fundamentally, we intend to use all the lawful authority we have to make sure that our state and local officials, who are so important to law enforcement, are in sync with the federal government," he said.

He did offer a warning to jurisdictions considering adopting "sanctuary" status. The California legislature is considering a proposal to institute the designation statewide; Sessions, though, singled out Maryland for a similar proposal.

"That would be such a mistake," Sessions said, while noting Maryland's Republican governor opposes the change proposed by the heavily-Democratic legislature. 

Sessions cited a high-profile case in San Francisco where a 32-year-old woman was killed by man who had been previously deported multiple times despite a request by immigration authorities to continue his detention to illustrate the administration's case against such policies.

"Countless Americans would be alive today and countless loved ones would not be grieving today if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended," Sessions claimed. 

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