Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Justice Department sent letters to 23 municipalities Wednesday demanding information on whether they are cooperating with federal immigration agencies.
The letters went to cities, counties and states with so-called "sanctuary city" policies that limit local enforcement of federal immigration law in order end fear of deportation and encourage school attendance and reporting of crimes. The letters threaten subpoenas and an end to some federal grant funds if the jurisdictions do not comply with the order.
The Justice Department demands that local law enforcement agencies demonstrate they are properly sharing information regarding the immigrant status of those in custody. The department cites Title 8, Section 1373 of the U.S. Code, which promotes cooperation between local agencies and the federal immigration enforcement. It adds that adherence to the statute is a precondition to receive some federal grants.
Those receiving the letters include the states of California, Illinois and Oregon, and the cities of New York and Albany, N.Y.; Berkeley, Los Angeles and Fremont, Calif.; Burlington, Vt.; Jackson, Miss.; Lawrence, Mass.; Louisville, Ky., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
Cook County, Ill., Bernalillo County, N.M., King County, Wash., and Monterey, Sonoma and Sacramento counties, Calif, also received the letter, as did the city-counties of Denver and San Francisco.
The mayors of New York City and New Orleans on Wednesday canceled scheduled meetings with President Donald Trump over the letters. Mayors Bill de Blasio of New York and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans were expected to travel to the White House for a working session with Trump along with a number of other mayors.
De Blasio tweeted he was withdrawing from the meeting.
"I will NOT be attending today's meeting at the White House after @realDonaldTrump's Department of Justice decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn't make us safer and it violates America's core values," he said.
Landrieu said he wouldn't attend the meeting, which was supposed to be about infrastructure, "under false pretenses."
CNN reported at least one Republican mayor also would not attend the working session, though the leader wasn't named.
A spokeswoman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, whose city received a letter, said he would attend the meeting, but disagreed with the administration's threat of subpoena.
"This notice today is insisting that people send proof that they are in compliance with federal law, and I would bet that many of us up here have already done that," Fischer told reporters. "So perhaps the mailbox at DOJ should be checked."
"An attack on one of our cities' mayors who is following the Constitution is an attack on all of us. I will not be attending that meeting," he said.
A crackdown on sanctuary communities was among the first orders of the Trump administration.