The Department of Justice threatened Wednesday to subpoena 23 jurisdictions that act as “sanctuary cities,” including America’s three largest cities and three states.
Several mayors, including at least one Republican, boycotted a scheduled meeting at the White House between President Donald Trump and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The DOJ’s warnings arrived via letters, which threatened legal action against the sanctuary cities for refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The letters demanded each of the cities, counties, and states to provide “records showing whether law enforcement officers are sharing information with federal agents on the immigration status of people in their custody.”
The department also threatened to cut off or reduce federal grant funds if jurisdictions did not comply.
Each of the 23 letters outlined the department’s position, requesting documents “reflecting any orders, directives, instructions, or guidance to your law enforcement employees (including, but not limited to, police officers, correctional officers, and contract employees), whether formal or informal, that were distributed, produced, and/or in effect during the relevant timeframe, regarding whether and how these employees may, or may not, communicate with the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or their agents, whether directly or indirectly.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been outspoken about the effect of sanctuary cities.
“I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law. We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement — enough is enough.”
“If these jurisdictions fail to respond to our request, fail to respond completely or fail to respond in a timely manner, we will exercise our lawful authorities and issue subpoenas for the information,” the DOJ said.
Just last week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson warned lawmakers on Capital Hill that federal prosecutors would soon be prosecuting sanctuary cities.
Where did the DOJ send letters?
The 23 jurisdictions were:
- Cook County, Illinois;
- New York City;
- State of California;
- Albany, New York;
- Berkeley, California;
- Bernalillo County, New Mexico;
- Burlington, Vermont;
- City and County of Denver;
- Fremont, California;
- Jackson, Mississippi;
- King County, Washington;
- Lawrence, Massachusetts;
- City of Los Angeles;
- Louisville Metro, Kentucky;
- Monterey County, California;
- Sacramento County, California;
- City and County of San Francisco;
- Sonoma County, California;
- Watsonville, California;
- West Palm Beach, Florida;
- State of Illinois;
- State of Oregon.
What was the response?
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, both Democrats, were the first of a number of mayors to protest the Justice Department’s letters by boycotting Trump’s meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“I will NOT be attending today’s meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities,” de Blasio tweeted. “It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”
I will NOT be attending today’s meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump’s Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 24, 2018
“Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again — and use cities as political props in the process — has made this meeting untenable,” Landrieu, who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, tweeted Wednesday. “The U.S. Conference of Mayors is proud to be a bipartisan organization. But an attack on mayors who lead welcoming cities is an attack on everyone in the conference.”
He added: “When the president is prepared to engage in an honest conversation about the future of our shared constituencies, we will be honored to join him. Until that time, mayors of both parties will work together to keep our cities safe, hold this administration accountable to its promises, and protect immigrant communities – with or without Washington’s help.”
— U.S. Mayors (@usmayors) January 24, 2018
At press time, it was unclear exactly how many mayors did not attend, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, both Democrats, did not attend.
The meeting was part of an annual conference of more than 100 mayors from all over the country.
In a statement, White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters addressed the mayors’ boycott, saying, “We are disappointed that a number of mayors have chosen to make a political stunt instead of participating in an important discussion with the President and his administration.”
“It’s a little hard for them to cancel a meeting that they did not organize,” Walters added. “This is a White House meeting. This is a bipartisan meeting. … It’s really difficult to cancel something that you never organized.”