July 25 (UPI) -- The Justice Department announced Tuesday it won't give grant money to cities unless they allow immigration officials access to jails and alert the federal government when someone facing deportation is released from custody.
The move follows through on Attorney General Jeff Sessions' threat to start cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities for not complying with federal attempts to deport undocumented immigrants.
"So-called 'sanctuary' policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes," Sessions said. "These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law."
He said sanctuary city policies "can have tragic consequences," pointing to the deaths of 10 immigrants trapped inside the back of a tractor-trailer in 100-degree heat in San Antonio, Texas.
Sessions said the Justice Department would only give Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistant Grants -- or Byrne JAG grants -- to cities and states that allow federal immigration officials access to detention facilities. The local officials must also give the department 48 hours notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant wanted by the federal government.
"This is what the American people should be able to expect from their cities and states, and these long overdue requirements will help us take down MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs, and make our country safer," Sessions said.
In April, Sessions sent letters to several cities and states with sanctuary policies, including 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.