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53 Democrats Send Letter to Sessions Demanding Answers on Sanctuary City Grant Restrictions

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Fifty-three Democrats from the House and Senate today released a letter calling out Attorney General Jeff Sessions for holding violence prevention funds hostage in an attempt to force cities to toe the Trump Administration’s line on sanctuary cities.

Last month, Sessions announced that cities which want to continue receiving federal grants for local law enforcement through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program must tell local police agencies to work more closely with ICE on deportations. The announcement was slammed by advocates and defenders of public safety, who pointed out that police-ICE collaborations lead to less safe cities because immigrants become mistrustful of the police. Moreover, courts have repeatedly ruled that some of the provisions that Sessions wants as Byrne-JAG conditions are unconstitutional. Chicago, San Francisco, and the state of California are already suing the Justice Department over the threat; the city of Los Angeles announced this week that it would be joining the California legal effort as well.

In their letter today, the House and Senate Democrats demanded to know what statutory authority Sessions is basing his grant conditions on. Withholding the grant money from cities will hurt the ability of local governments to fight crime in their communities — something Sessions doesn’t seem to care about as he strives to better persecute immigrants.

As the letter states:

[Sessions’] conditions are an unwarranted, coercive effort to leverage communities’ longstanding reliance on Byrne-JAG funds in furtherance of the Trump Administration’s mass-deportation agenda. By forcing local law enforcement to choose between redirecting resources from policing efforts to immigration enforcement or else sacrificing violence prevention funds that the Justice Department itself has described as “critical” and “necessary,” these new Byrne-JAG conditions will undermine the ability of local law enforcement agencies to combat gun violence in communities like Chicago and Baltimore.

The letter is signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); and U.S. Representatives Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Bradley S. Schneider (D-IL), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Michael E. Capuano (D-MA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Judy Chu (D-CA), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Mark Takano (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), and William R. Keating (D-MA).

Read the full text of the letter below: