U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is once again moving to cut some funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” like Philadelphia that limit cooperation with federal immigration officials.
When Sessions came to the city on Friday to speak to local law enforcement officials, it was notable when he did not repeat a threat to punish cities with such policies by cutting off their federal funding.
Now, the Justice Department has announce it is adding new restrictions to certain grant programs in an attempt to force these cities to change their policies.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said in a statement.
To qualify for money under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant or JAG Program, cities must allow federal officials into their jails to ask detainees about their immigration status and give 48-hours notice when an unauthorized immigrant is scheduled to be released from custody.
They must also comply with a statute that says federal, state and local governments “may not prohibit or in any way restrict” government officials from sending or receiving information about any person’s immigration or citizenship status.
City spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said its lawyers are still weighing the options and reviewing the new JAG program requirements.
But Mayor Jim Kenney is adamant Philadelphia has not broken any laws and believes this new move is more about national politics than about policy.
“We believe we’re in compliance and will move forward based on that and if anything else comes up, we’ll probably wind up in court at some point,” he said during an event at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Wednesday morning.
Last year, the city received a $1.6 million dollar grant from the Justice Department that falls under these new restrictions. That money went toward overtime and training for police officers. It’s not clear whether the city will apply for another JAG grant this year.
Following Sessions’ speech on Friday, city Police Commissioner Richard Ross said losing out on these dollars would have a “tremendous” impact on the department.
“It’s something we’re very worried about,” Ross said. “Hopefully calmer minds and thoughts will prevail because we can ill afford to have that happen in a city like Philadelphia.”