May 23 (UPI) -- A Justice Department memo issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions limits the scope of the federal financial threat to communities self-designated as "sanctuary cities."
The memo comes in response to an executive order signed in January by President Donald Trump, calling for denial of federal funds to communities which refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration matters; a California federal judge blocked a key part of Trump's order last month, saying it overstepped presidential authority.
Sessions' memo, issued Monday, narrowly defines the cities as places that "willfully refuse to comply" with federal law. The memo also clarifies that potential denial of funding concerns a pool of grants administered by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security and not the entire federal funding stream available to cities and counties.
The law typically is enforced in detainer requests when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally requests that a local police or sheriff's office detain inmates in the United States illegally who have been convicted and face deportation, for up to 48 hours after their sentences are completed. The memo Monday applies to municipalities with laws specifically forbidding their police to notify federal authorities when an illegal immigrant is about to be released from custody.