LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — The Trump administration is continuing its tough talk against “sanctuary cities,” which shelter people living in the country illegally by refusing to help the federal government enforce immigration laws.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he is “urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws.”
He says the Justice Department will require compliance with immigration laws in order for the cities to receive grants through the Office of Justice Programs. The Obama administration had a similar policy in place.
“The American people know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said.
President Trump had said during the campaign that he would “defund” sanctuary cities by taking away their federal funding.
But legal precedent suggests that would have been difficult to do.
When asked about plans by states like California and Maryland to declare themselves as sanctuary states,” Sessions said “(t)hat would be such a mistake.”
Sanctuary cities include New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, along with several other cities in and around the Southland, including San Bernardino and Santa Ana.
“The reality is we are not going to be intimidated,” Santa Ana City Councilman Sal Tinajero said Monday.
Tinajero told CBS2 that agencies in Santa Ana, Orange County’s lone sanctuary city, have never withheld immigration information of suspects from the federal government.
The federal government is getting what it requires, Tinajero argues, so funding cannot be cut.
“Every time that someone is arrested in the city of Santa Ana, and we ask them their status here in the United States, which is what you do for every single person, we keep that for ourselves,” Tinajero said. “But if the federal government asks for it formally, we give them that information. So, in order for Mr. Sessions to take our funds away, he has to prove that we have violated that. And the reality is, we haven’t.”
Santa Ana gets millions in federal grants for programs like gang enforcement and the hiring of new officers. Up until recently, the federal government rented hundreds of beds at the Santa Ana Jail to house federal inmates.
Since President Trump’s election, however, the number of rented beds has dramatically decreased. At last count, Santa Ana has lost $3 million, Tinajero said. That is money that is used to supplement the Santa Ana Police Department’s budget.
“Donald Trump also has to also figure it out,” Tinajero said. “Either you want safe communities, or you don’t. Either you’re going to be the president that continues to allow our quality of life to flourish, or you’re going to be the one that diminishes it.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what the potential financial impact to affected local jurisdictions would be, but according to the Justice Department’s website, the city of Los Angeles received $1.4 million from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program this fiscal year.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, state Senate President Kevin De Leon described Sessions’ announcement as “nothing short of blackmail” and a “gun-to-the-head method” of governing.
“They are wrong about immigrants and wrong about what makes our communities safer,” he said.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)