Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The Justice Department on Thursday said it will withhold federal grant money to law enforcement agencies in so-called "sanctuary cities" unless they assist Homeland Security in deporting undocumented people who their departments identify.
In a memo released online, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said municipalities that have refused to comply with federal agencies seeking to deport undocumented people are endangering the safety of officers and the public. He cited a case in Portland, Ore., where an illegal alien who's been deported "20 times" was accused of sexually assaulting an elderly woman.
"By forcing police to go into more dangerous situations to re-arrest the same criminals, these policies endanger law enforcement officers more than anyone," he said. "The Department of Justice is committed to supporting our law enforcement at every level, and that's why we're asking 'sanctuary' jurisdictions to stop making their jobs harder."
The Department of Homeland Security relies on state and local law enforcement agencies to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers when an undocumented individual is arrested or identified. While the initial criminal matter -- sometimes as little as a traffic ticket -- is handled at the local level, ICE can take the individual into federal custody and open an investigation into whether the person lawfully entered the country. If they came to the United States illegally, they are subject to deportation.
Earlier this year, the federal government put nearly a dozen cities and counties, along with the California Department of Corrections, on notice they were subject to being blacklisted from lucrative federal grants that help fund their departments if they did not begin to comply with federal immigration policies.
Thursday's announcement stated any municipality that refuses to notify ICE of an undocumented person in their custody, or refuses to hold those individuals for up to 48 hours so ICE can take custody of them, are subject to having federal grant applications denied.