New York City officials sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department on Friday defying a directive intended to pressure the city into cooperating more with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
New York was among four so-called “sanctuary cities” that had been given an Oct. 27 deadline to show they’re not hampering enforcement of U.S. immigration law.
The Justice Department has threatened to cut off millions of dollars in federal grants to the cities, which include Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia, if they didn’t meet certain criteria.
In New York, the Justice Department wants the city’s jails to notify federal immigration agents when someone in the United States illegally is about to be released from custody. Right now, local laws only allow city officials to share information about people who have been convicted of certain crimes.
In a letter to an assistant attorney general Friday, city attorney Zachary Carter said he believed New York had met all legal conditions of the grant program and wasn’t required to do more than it was already doing.
He said the federal statute that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited to compel cooperation with immigration agents “cannot be read to override the city’s confidentiality policy and unconstitutionally interfere with the city’s right to exert control over its officers and employees.”
Carter added that Congress did not intend the law-enforcement grant program to be linked to cooperation with immigration agents.
New York City is anticipating $4.3 million that’s been authorized under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Carter said the city is “deeply committed to preserving this funding.”
The federal grant program was named after a slain New York City police officer. It pays for public safety equipment.
Sessions has said that cities that don’t help enforce immigration law are endangering public safety, especially when it comes to sharing information about immigrants who have been accused of crimes.