- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Some of the country’s top mayors canceled a planned meeting with President Trump on Wednesday to protest his attempted crackdown on sanctuary cities, complaining he was hurting their ability to “protect immigrant communities.”

The move came just hours after the Justice Department announced it was demanding a new round of information from 23 states, counties and cities — including some of the country’s biggest — on their sanctuary-style policies.

The department warned that if the jurisdictions refused to cooperate this time, they could face subpoenas.

That was too much for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, chairman of the Conference of Mayors, who said he would boycott a meeting at the White House on infrastructure in response to the anti-sanctuary announcement.

“An attack on one of our city mayors who are following the Constitution is an attack on all of us. I will not be attending the meeting,” he said at a press conference.

At the meeting, which took place without the boycotters, Mr. Trump praised those who showed up and blasted the ones who didn’t.

“The mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal, illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans,” Mr. Trump said. “So let me tell you, the vast majority of people showed up.”

Sanctuary cities have become one of the most heated parts of an already steamy immigration debate.

Mr. Trump has vowed to crack down on sanctuaries, or jurisdictions that thwart cooperation with federal deportation officers, by withholding federal grant money.

The Justice Department is spearheading those efforts, ramping up pressure on jurisdictions it suspects have policies limiting cooperation.

Wednesday’s 23 warning letters went to the states of Illinois, Oregon and California; Chicago and Cook County, New York City, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others.

Some of those communities tried to blow off previous requests for information about their policies with inadequate evidence, so the new letters warn those that don’t take the new requests seriously that they could face subpoenas.

“Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement — enough is enough.”

Just how much freedom the administration has to crack down on sanctuaries is being fought in the courts.

Federal judges have blocked efforts by Mr. Sessions to impose new requirements such as allowing immigration agents into jails.

But the judges have said the administration can enforce Section 1373, a part of federal law that requires local governments to share information they have when it’s requested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Obama administration flagged 10 communities in 2016 it said could be violating Section 1373. The Trump administration has been following up on that review, clearing some jurisdictions while adding others to the list.

The law doesn’t require jurisdictions to hold illegal immigrants beyond their usual release times, nor does it require local sheriff’s or police departments to assist in investigation of arrest of illegal immigrants. But it does set a standard for communication.

“This is about the basic requirements to simply communicate with federal law enforcement authorities over at ICE regarding the immigration status of those who are already in their custody,” a senior Justice Department official said.

San Francisco’s chief lawyer, Dennis Herrera, said he was confident the city’s policies are legal.

“San Francisco is proud to be a sanctuary city. We’re also in full compliance with federal immigration law,” he said. “What the law requires is narrow, and San Francisco follows the law. It’s that simple.”

He said the city will provide the information the Justice Department asked for.

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