Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved on Thursday to punish “sanctuary cities,” threatening to deny federal crime-fighting funds to Stockton, Calif., San Bernardino, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M., and Baltimore if officials in those cities do not ramp up their efforts to help detain and deport undocumented immigrants.


The four cities’ police departments were asked to show proof of their compliance by August 18. The Los Angeles Times reported:

The Justice Department sent letters to cities struggling with gun violence, telling them they will be ineligible for a new program that aims to root out drug trafficking and gang crime unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice before releasing someone in custody who is wanted on immigration violations. The cities … all expressed interest in the Justice Department’s new Public Safety Partnership, which enlists federal agents, analysts and technology to help communities find solutions to crime.

Sessions said in a statement that accompanied the letters: “By taking simple, common-sense considerations into account, we are encouraging every jurisdiction in this country to cooperate with federal law enforcement. That will ultimately make all of us safer—especially law enforcement on our streets.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico denounced the Department of Justice threats. According to U.S. News & World Report:

ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson said Thursday that those demands were “a bullying tactic” from Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is “determined to make misery in the lives of immigrant families.” Simonson says the attorney general’s actions are “petty, coercive, and dangerous” for Albuquerque as the city sees a rise in crime.

President Trump’s Department of Homeland Security has long issued warnings to California law enforcement for refusing to comply with calls to help immigration enforcement. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed resistance to Homeland Security policies, disputing the administration’s claim that it can withhold federal funds from cities that don’t comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders.

The Department of Justice initially planned to involve 12 cities in the program and may name additional sites later this year. The statement from Sessions follows Trump’s endorsement of a problematic immigration bill aimed at creating a “merit-based” immigration system, one that opponents call racist and classist.

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