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Four U.S. 'sanctuary cities' may be violating law: U.S. Attorney General Sessions

Reuters logo Reuters 10/12/2017 By Sarah N. Lynch and Mica Rosenberg
FILE PHOTO - Sessions delivers remarks on the U.S. system for asylum-seekers at the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Falls Church, Virginia © REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst FILE PHOTO - Sessions delivers remarks on the U.S. system for asylum-seekers at the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Falls Church, Virginia

The United States Justice Department singled out four cities and a county on Thursday for allegedly having so-called "sanctuary policies" that may violate a federal law that says local governments cannot limit information sharing with U.S. immigration officials.

The department said New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Cook County in Illinois along with its largest city Chicago, "have preliminarily been found" to have policies that violate the law. It is giving those jurisdictions until Oct. 27 to provide evidence demonstrating compliance.

If the government finds the cities and county are violating the statute that calls for information sharing with federal immigration officials, it says it could decide to cut federal funds for law enforcement.

The Justice Department said it had found no evidence that four other jurisdictions - Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Clark County, Nevada, Miami-Dade County, Florida and the State of Connecticut - were in violation of the statue, known as Section 1373.

The determinations came after the Justice Department earlier in the year had asked several local jurisdictions to detail their compliance with the law in order to make a determination about their eligibility for certain federal grants.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the cities still in the department's crosshairs "adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law."

FILE PHOTO: The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington © REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo FILE PHOTO: The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington

The sanctuary jurisdictions say they are following the law, which says local authorities cannot prevent information exchange with federal immigration agents about people's immigration status.

The Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu and the superintendent of the police department said the city was in "full compliance" with the statute but added that they would "not be the federal government's deportation force."

Seth Stein, a spokesman for New York City, said the mayor's office was "prepared to fight to protect critical public safety funding."

Some of the disputes concern the jurisdictions' compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "detainer" requests, sent to local authorities when ICE wants to hold people in custody up to 48 hours and beyond when they are supposed to be released so that immigration officials can pick them up.

Some cities say they will only honor detainers accompanied by criminal warrants, and that compliance with the requests is voluntary and not required under the statute.

Chicago sued the federal government in August over the threats of funding cuts being made by Justice Department. A federal judge sided with the city last month and issued a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. government from denying public-safety grants.

In a separate case filed by several cities and counties in California, the Justice Department in a June filing acknowledged that immigration detainer requests are voluntary, and that Sessions had not said that non-compliance with detainer requests would count as a breach of Section 1373.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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