Justice Department Narrows Scope Of 'Sanctuary Cities' Executive Order

May 22, 2017
Originally published on May 22, 2017 6:29 pm

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is narrowing the scope of an executive order on so-called sanctuary cities.

A federal judge in California last month blocked a key part of that order, reasoning that the Trump administration had overstepped by threatening to yank federal money from those places.

In the new memo, the attorney general defines the cities narrowly — as places that "willfully refuse to comply" with federal law. Sessions also made clear the threats apply only to a modest pool of grants administered by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, not the entire stream of U.S. funding for states and localities.

That point figured prominently in the recent ruling by federal Judge William Orrick, who wrote: "Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration-enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves."

Sessions recently notified several jurisdictions that their funding was at risk, insisting they provide proof they are complying with federal immigration law. The AG did not rule out naming and shaming more places that he says undermine the lawful system of immigration.

His new memo also signals that for future grants, federal authorities may prioritize places that honor requests to detain people in local law enforcement custody to give federal officials time to arrive.

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