April 4, 2023

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 29, 2017) — Jurisdictions from one end of the nation to the other say they’re not backing down, despite U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to cut billions in federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities that choose to help rather than detain undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, whose district includes Seattle, thinks Sessions is interpreting the law incorrectly. Local jurisdictions are required to provide information to federal immigration agencies, but Jayapal believes Sessions can’t make it a city or county’s job to enforce federal immigration laws.

“The vast majority of sanctuary policies across the country do not violate the Constitution; and you could even argue to force jurisdictions to implement federal immigration laws would, in fact, be a violation of the Constitution,” she explained.

In announcing his stand, Sessions said, “Countless Americans would be alive today and countless loved ones would not be grieving today if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended.”

Jayapal says that claim is contradicted by the government’s own data – showing crime rates are lower in sanctuary jurisdictions than their non-sanctuary counterparts.

At the other end of the country, James Duff Lyall, the executive director of the ACLU of Vermont cites the recent arrests of three immigrant activists in his state as proof that the Trump administration is resorting to fear tactics to silence protected political speech.

“Make no mistake, migrant justice arrests are politically motivated; they are right out of the playbook of some of the worst authoritarian regimes,” he said. “It is clear that the Trump administration is trying to intimidate immigrant community members, and those who support them.”

Rep. Jayapal believes the courts are unlikely to uphold Sessions’ threat to cut billions of dollars of federal grants and aid to sanctuary cities. However, she says a much smaller pool of money could be at risk if Sessions tries to follow through.

“Very limited funding that he might be able to withhold, because it has to be related to the purpose of the grant,” she added. “You can’t just say, I am going to withhold these funds for something that’s totally in a different set of priorities.”

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