April 21 (UPI) -- The Justice Department on Friday sent letters to nine so-called sanctuary cities, warning the municipalities to comply with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants or risk losing millions in grant money.
The letters went to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as officials in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York and Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago.
Local leaders in those places have resisted federal mandates to turn over evidence of undocumented immigrants when they are identified by law enforcement, in some cases for infractions as minor as a traffic stop. Some of the cities have passed local laws prohibiting police and corrections officials from turning over people in the country illegally.
"Failure to comply with this condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future ... grants, or other action, as appropriate," the letters state.
In a statement after the letters were sent, the Justice Department said cities as "crumbling" under the weight of illegal immigration. The letter states jurisdictions who violate federal immigration law could be found in violation of Justice Department grants.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday the Justice Department is seeking cooperation from localities in fighting crime and is not looking to pick fights.
"We're pleading with the cities, let's don't have a fight over this," Sessions said. "So I hope we don't end into a fight, but we're perfectly willing to do whatever I can to ensure that we have the kind of unified effort that protects America."
The Justice Department doles out $2.2 billion annually in grant money to cities and counties to help fund law enforcement initiatives.