Challenge Alert

Lock in $15,000 with your donation by 6:30 p.m.

Donate now

Justice Department warns ‘sanctuary cities,’ with grant money at risk

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference after touring the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11. The Justice Department is warning so-called

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference after touring the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11. The Justice Department is warning so-called "sanctuary cities" that they must prove they are complying with federal immigration laws or risk funding.(Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

The Trump administration has notified Philadelphia officials that they must show that city police are not ignoring requests by federal immigration authorities. If the city fails to do so, law-enforcement funding will be cut. 

It is the latest move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions who promised to punish “sanctuary cities” such as Philadelphia.

The Justice Department has given Mayor Jim Kenney two months to prove the city is indeed sharing a person’s immigration status with federal authorities when requested, which is required under federal law

According to a warning letter, the city has until June 30 to provide documentation — including an official legal opinion — demonstrating that the city is acting in accordance with federal law.

If the explanation does not satisfy Sessions, Philadelphia could lose a $1.6 million from the Justice Assistance Grant Program, which is intended to assist police with programs for drug treatment, crime victims and other needs.

The letter states that remaining a sanctuary city could threaten future grants to the police department, which could total in tens of millions of dollars.

Philadelphia was one of nine local governments that received the letters.

In a statement, Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the city has known since last year that they would have to submit more paperwork for the grant to continue. 

“We believe there is nothing in our current policy that prohibits us from certifying,” Hitt said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.