- Eli Kantor
- Beverly Hills, California, United States
- Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
By Alexander Bolton
July 25, 2017
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in dramatic fashion, emerged on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon to a standing ovation from his colleagues to cast the deciding vote to begin the healthcare debate.
McCain walked onto the floor through the chamber’s East door as Republican and Democratic colleagues stood to applaud his return to work after being diagnosed with brain cancer last week.
The 80-year-old lawmaker, looking pale and with a wan smile, waved to his colleagues and touched his left breast, over his heart, to acknowledge them.
He had a two- to three-inch scar over his left eye, where surgeons performed an emergency craniotomy over a week ago to remove a blood clot.
McCain then shook hands with Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) before casting a crucial vote to begin debate on House-passed legislation repealing and replacing major parts of ObamaCare.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who worked closely with McCain on immigration legislation, was so touched by the moment that he hugged McCain — even though Democrats staunchly oppose the GOP healthcare reform effort.
McCain cast the 49th vote to advance the measure and was immediately followed by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who cast the 50th vote to begin the floor debate.
Two Republicans voted against the motion to proceed — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — so McCain’s vote was crucial.
Vice President Mike Pence voted to break a 50-50 tie and approve the motion.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com
New York Times (New York)
By Liz Robbins
July 25, 2017
In the wake of last week’s announcement that more than 15 members of the transnational gang MS-13 had been arrested in five murders on Long Island, President Trump is coming to Suffolk County on Friday to discuss measures to eliminate the gang. He is planning to meet with Representatives Peter T. King and Lee Zeldin, Republicans whose districts include Suffolk County, and other officials.
Mr. Trump’s planned visit was first reported by Newsday and was confirmed by Mr. Zeldin’s office on Tuesday. The location of the meeting has not been announced.
In April, two weeks after four young Latino men were found brutally murdered in the woods outside a Central Islip park, Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the area to declare war on MS-13. He said that the federal programs to accept unaccompanied minors fleeing from Central America led to the rise in the gang’s numbers.
But three of the young men killed were immigrants, and two of them, cousins Michael Lopez Banegas, 20, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, had fled the gang in Honduras, entering the United States as unaccompanied minors. Both had asylum applications pending.
Since January 2016, the police said there have been 17 murders attributed to MS-13 on Long Island. The gang, known as La Mara Salvatrucha, has roots in Los Angeles and El Salvador and has existed for more than two decades on Long Island.
Mr. Trump has vowed to get rid of the “bad hombres” who have entered the United States illegally. But immigrant activists protesting when Mr. Sessions visited said they were concerned that the rhetoric would lead to backlash against their community.
The Suffolk County Police Department said it has made more than 170 arrests of MS-13 members since September, when two friends, Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, were murdered by the gang in Brentwood. In solving those murders, as well as the deaths of the four young men, the police worked with federal authorities to have the gang members charged with murder and racketeering, as part of a criminal organization.
But not all gang members arrested can be charged under the federal law for criminal organizations, said Timothy Sini, the Suffolk County police commissioner, at the news conference last week. He said that is why his department works with federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.
In June, the Homeland Security Investigations unit of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced it had made 39 civil arrests of MS-13 gang members in the New York City region who had also committed violent felonies, as part of what it called Operation Matador.
New York Times (Opinion)
By Ross Douthat
July 26, 2017
Donald Trump’s campaign against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in which he is seemingly attempting to insult and humiliate and tweet-shame Sessions into resignation, is an insanely stupid exercise. It is a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade.
Let us walk through the levels of stupidity one by one. First there is the policy level — generally the lowest, least important in Trumpworld, but still worth exploring.
To the extent that any figure in the Trump administration both embodies “Trumpism” and seems capable of executing its policy ambitions, it is Sessions, who is using his office to strictly enforce immigration laws and pursue an old-school law-and-order agenda.
You may hate his agenda (as most liberals do) or dislike parts of it (as I do), but it is clearly the agenda that Trump ran on, and the attorney general’s office is one of the few places where it is being effectively pursued. So cashiering Sessions would be a remarkable statement (though hardly the first) that the president cares almost nothing for his own alleged platform and governing philosophy.
Next in our tower of folly is the institutional level. Trump has had difficulty staffing his administration, his secretary of state is muttering about leaving, and his White House is riven by factionalism and paranoia. Meanwhile, he is both under investigation by Senate Republicans and dependent on their good will to keep the investigations contained to just the Russia business.
Trying to defenestrate Sessions, the lone Republican senator in Trump’s corner during the primary campaign and a popular figure among his former Senate colleagues, will make things worse for the president on both fronts. It demonstrates a level of disloyalty that should send sane people running from Trump’s service, it tells other cabinet members to get out while the getting’s good (and to leak and undermine like crazy on their way), and it further alienates Republican senators whom Trump needs to confirm appointees (including any Sessions replacement) and to go easy on his scandals.
Next on our tour is the level of mass politics, where Trump’s war on Sessions is one of the few things short of a recession that could hurt him with his base — which he needs to hold, since he isn’t doing anything to persuade anyone outside it.
Of course many Trump supporters will side with him no matter what and lots don’t care about Sessions one way or another. But the Trumpian core also includes conservatives who like Sessions for ideological reasons, who trust Trump in part because Sessions vouched for him, and who don’t like or trust very many other people (the family, the New Yorkers, the ex-Democrats) in Trump’s inner circle. Which is why Trump’s campaign against Sessions has already brought him negative coverage from Breitbart, Tucker Carlson and various pro-Trump or anti-anti-Trump pundits — making it an extraordinary act of political malpractice from a White House that lacks a cushion for such follies.
Next there is the legal level. By his own admission, Trump’s beef with Sessions centers on the attorney general’s recusal from the Russia investigation, which from Trump’s perspective led to the appointment of a special counsel he now obviously yearns to fire.
This blame-Sessions perspective is warped, since it was Trump’s decision to fire James Comey (an earlier monumental folly) that was actually decisive in putting Robert Mueller on the case. But regardless of whether he has his facts straight, Trump’s logic is a straightforward admission that he wants to eject his attorney general because Sessions has not adequately protected him from legal scrutiny — an argument that at once reveals Trump’s usual contempt for laws and norms and also suggests (not for the first time) that he has something so substantial to hide that only omerta-style loyalty will do.
Which, of course — now we’ve reached the peak of the tower of folly — he probably will not get if Sessions goes, because no hatchet man will win easy confirmation, and until Sessions is replaced the acting attorney general will be Ron Rosenstein, the man who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel in the first place!
So it’s basically madness all the way to the top: bad policy, bad strategy, bad politics, bad legal maneuvering, bad optics, a self-defeating venture carried out via deranged-as-usual tweets and public insults.
And if it were any other president behaving like this — well, rather than repeat arguments I’ve made before, I’ll quote Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle, writing a few months ago in response to my admittedly extreme suggestion that Trump’s behavior might justify removal under the 25th Amendment:
Imagine, if you will, that George W. Bush had started acting like Donald Trump partway into his second term …. Is there any question that people would be talking about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him? Not for political reasons, but because it would be obvious that some tragic mental impairment had befallen the commander in chief.
Adults of mature years know not to engage in histrionic self-pity in public, not necessarily because they avoid self-pity, but because outside of high school parties, this is a singularly ineffective way to make people like and support you. Competent leaders do not preside over staff who are leaking what is essentially one long and anguished primal scream to any reporter they can get to hold still. Seasoned professionals do not, suddenly and for no apparent reason, say things in public that make them better targets for legal investigations …
And so the only possible explanation for such a quick succession of stunning lapses in judgment would be a severe stroke, an aggressive brain tumor or some other neurological disaster that had rendered him unfit to continue in office, at least until it could be treated. I don’t even think this would be controversial, even among his supporters. “Poor fellow,” they’d murmur, “the strain of the office has destroyed his health. He has given more than his life for his country.” Time to let him rest and heal while someone else shoulders his Sisyphean burdens.
Trump hasn’t had a stroke or suffered a neurological disaster, and his behavior in the White House is no different from the behavior he manifested consistently while winning enough votes to take the presidency.
But he is nonetheless clearly impaired, gravely deficient somewhere at the intersection of reason and judgment and conscience and self-control. Pointing this out is wearying and repetitive, but still it must be pointed out.
You can be as loyal as Jeff Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.
Wall Street Journal (LTE)
By Terry W. Hartle
July 25, 2017
Your editorial “A Bad GOP Dream” (July 20) is spot on. In March more than 550 college and university presidents sent a letter to President Trump thanking him for his positive comments about the outstanding group of young people known as “Dreamers.” Your editorial correctly notes that the president and a bipartisan majority in Congress understand that the Dreamers are talented and high-achieving individuals who contribute in many ways to American society. In terms of the illegal-immigration challenges facing our nation, these people should not be on the list because, well, they are not problems. They are assets.
The small group of state attorneys general who are asking the Secretary of Homeland Security to end the program allowing Dreamers to work and, in many cases, attend college in this country should stop immediately while the Trump administration and Congress work on a solution that will allow these bright and productive young people to live here without fear and uncertainty.
By Robin Eberhardt
July 25, 2017
A Breitbart story criticized President Trump Tuesday, calling his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions “hypocrisy” and arguing that Trump removing Sessions from his role could damage Trump’s ability to fulfill his campaign promises on immigration.
The story from the right-wing news source that was formerly run by Stephen Bannon, who is now White House chief strategist, claims that Sessions is “one of the vital pillars of Trump’s immigration agenda.”
“President Trump’s decision Tuesday to attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions over Sessions’ ‘position’ on Hillary Clinton various scandals only serves to highlight Trump’s own hypocrisy on the issue — and is likely to fuel concerns from his base who see Sessions at the best hope to fulfill Trump’s immigration policies,” reads the lede of the story.
The story praises Sessions as representing “some of the most significant achievements of Trump’s young administration,” mentioning Trump’s several travel ban orders and the attorney general’s support for enforcing mandatory minimum sentences.
During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to build a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico that he promised he would have Mexico fund, and he issued two executive orders temporarily banning immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. A Supreme Court ruling this summer allowed the Trump administration to move forward with the travel ban, but allowed close family members to apply for visas.
The Trump administration has fought back on whether grandparents should be included in the ban, after a Hawaii court ruled that grandparents should be allowed to obtain visas.
Trump attacked Sessions last week in response to the attorney general’s previous announcement that he wold recuse himself from the investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the campaign. Trump made scathing comments to Sessions, saying he would not have given him his position if he knew he would recuse himself.
Trump is reportedly considering replacing Sessions with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), but both have denied that they are being considered for the position.
By Max Greenwood
July 25, 2017
“Jeff Sessions is a friend, former colleague & an honorable person. He’s a man of deep conviction & principle who believes in the rule of law,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) tweeted.
“We may not agree on every policy issue, but I believe he always has the best interests of our country at heart,” he added.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) defended Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia probes.
“While some may argue that he should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation, Attorney General Sessions demonstrated good judgment by doing so and removed all appearances of a potential conflict,” Tillis said in a statement.
“Following eight years of organizational and accountability issues plaguing the Department of Justice, Attorney General Sessions’ leadership is needed now more than ever,” he added.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) echoed Tillis’s belief that Sessions has led the Justice Department in a “positive direction.”
Jim DeMint, a former GOP senator from South Carolina, said on Tuesday that, while he understands Trump’s frustration, removing Sessions from the Justice Department would do little to satisfy the president and would instead cost him one of his fiercest allies.
“I understand the President’s frustration with the endless media obsession over Russia,” DeMint, a former president of the Heritage Foundation who recently launched a group called the Conservative Partnership Institute, said in a statement. “It’s as if the Democrats and liberal media are trying to overturn the election, they can’t come to grips with the fact that Americans voted against their failed liberal policies and voted them out of power.”
“But pushing Jeff Sessions out won’t get Congress to move forward on his policies or stop liberals attacks, and Trump would lose a great ally and widely respected advocate for the rule of law,” he continued.
Wall Street Journal
By Del Quentin Wilber, Aruna Viswanatha and Beth Reinhard
July 25, 2017
WASHINGTON—Republicans and former Justice Department officials rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions as he continued to weather public criticism from President Donald Trump over his decision to recuse himself from investigations into Russia’s election interference, and other concerns.
The defenders’ voiced their support in response to a flurry of unusual attacks by a president on his top law-enforcement official, who was an early and ardent backer of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. In an interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump said he was “very disappointed in Jeff Sessions” for stepping aside from the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“I’m just looking at it,” the president said when asked how long he could continue to criticize Mr. Sessions without firing him. “I’ll just see. It’s a very important thing.”
Mr. Trump on Monday and Tuesday also tweeted that Mr. Sessions was “very weak” and “beleaguered” for not investigating his electoral opponent, Hillary Clinton, or those who leak intelligence information. During the campaign, Mr. Trump said Mrs. Clinton should be prosecuted and go to jail for sending classified information over a private email server she used as secretary of state. After winning the presidency, Mr. Trump reversed course and said he didn’t think his political rival should be investigated.
At his January confirmation hearing, Mr. Sessions said he would recuse himself on any pending investigation into Mrs. Clinton, saying that some of his comments during the campaign could lead to a perception of bias. Last summer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t be prosecuted.
The Justice Department brought one leak case last month, when it charged a federal government contractor with providing classified information to a news organization.
Mr. Sessions couldn’t be reached for comment. Top aides said he has no plans to step aside and is focusing on running his department. In May as he became aware of the president’s displeasure, Mr. Sessions told Mr. Trump he would be willing to resign, according to people close to the attorney general. Mr. Trump declined the offer.
Mr. Trump’s nominee for another senior Justice Department post, Brian Benczkowski, at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday described Mr. Sessions as a “man of integrity who cares deeply about the institutional independence of the department.”
“I think he goes to work every day doing his dead-level best to protect that independence, and those sorts of comments are painful and difficult for me to hear,” Mr. Benczkowski said in response to questions about Mr. Trump’s tweets. At his hearing, Mr. Benczkowski faced questions about his work for a Russian bank.
At his news conference Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump said he was “disappointed” in Mr. Sessions and that “he should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office.”
“If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.
He added: “So I think that’s a bad thing, not for the president but for the presidency. I think it’s unfair to the presidency, and that’s the way I feel.”
The president’s sharp critiques raised questions about whether Mr. Sessions would resign or if Mr. Trump was laying the groundwork to fire him. Top elected Republicans said they hoped Mr. Trump would back off Mr. Sessions and chastised the president for urging the prosecution of Mrs. Clinton.
“The attorney general is doing a fine job and he made the right decision to recuse himself,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said.
Mr. Sessions’ former home-state colleague, Sen. Richard Shelby (R, Ala.), said: “Jeff Sessions is a man of integrity, loyalty, and extraordinary character.”
Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.), one of Mr. Trump’s most outspoken critics in the GOP, was among lawmakers who blasted the president’s treatment of Mr. Sessions. He also said it was “highly inappropriate” for Mr. Trump to tell the attorney general to go after his former Democratic opponent.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said Mr. Sessions “is among the most honorable men in government today.”
“I have full confidence in Jeff’s ability to perform the duties of his office and, above all, uphold the rule of law,” Mr. Hatch said.
Former Justice officials said that Mr. Trump’s criticism has potentially eroded Mr. Sessions’ ability to lead the department. They were concerned that if Mr. Trump were to fire Mr. Sessions, other top Justice Department officials might resign in solidarity, creating a constitutional crisis.
They also said they were shocked that Mr. Trump would publicly attack a member of his own cabinet, especially one who supported his candidacy so early in the process and who has so aggressively promoted his platform of tougher policing and a crackdown on illegal immigration. Mr. Sessions as attorney general has hailed a new “Trump era” of stepped-up immigration enforcement, a central tenant of the business mogul’s campaign platform.
“What I am observing here is without precedent,” said Joe Whitley, a former top Justice Department official in Republican administrations.
John Yoo, a former top Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, said that Mr. Trump’s criticism “really undermines the attorney general’s position within his own department, and it also sends a terrible signal about the relationship between the White House and the Justice Department.”
If Mr. Sessions were fired or forced to resign, Mr. Trump would have a hard time finding a replacement that could be confirmed by the Senate, according to Mr. Yoo, a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.
“The president would be in an enormous political hole,” Mr. Yoo said. “All of the other members of his cabinet would wonder who is next. And who is going to take a job to replace Sessions knowing this is how he treated the attorney general? And who can get confirmed?”
If Mr. Sessions were to step down or be fired, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would become the acting attorney general. After Mr. Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, it was supervised by Mr. Rosenstein. In May, shortly after Mr. Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, the deputy attorney general appointed Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to become the special counsel overseeing the investigation.
Mr. Trump might be able to appoint another acting attorney general without Senate confirmation, if the Senate is closed for business for more than 10 days, but the chamber usually conducts pro forma sessions during recess to prevent any such appointments.
Mr. Trump could also move another Senate-confirmed official, from the Justice Department or any other department, to serve as acting attorney general for a limited time. But the pool of potential candidates is relatively small, and it is unclear who the White House might consider to make such an appointment.
—Michael C. Bender contributed to this article.
Write to Del Quentin Wilber at email@example.com, Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Beth Reinhard at firstname.lastname@example.org
Appeared in the July 26, 2017, print edition as ‘GOP Lawmakers Defend Sessions.’
By Jim Forsyth
July 25, 2017
AUSTIN, Texas/NEW YORK — Some of the illegal immigrants who survived a deadly human-smuggling journey into Texas are seeking visas to stay in the United States in exchange for testimony against those responsible for an operation that killed 10 people on a sweltering truck, a lawyer said on Tuesday.
There is precedent for such visas and it could help U.S. authorities bring more people to justice, experts said. So far, only one person has been charged, the driver of the truck who said he was unaware of the human cargo aboard until he took a rest stop in San Antonio. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
The case could also provide a test for the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has promised to crack down on illegal immigration and the criminal syndicates responsible for human trafficking.
Silvia Mintz, an attorney representing the Guatemalan Consulate in Houston, said she has contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to see if it would consider granting “U visas,” available to victims of crimes such as human trafficking who have pertinent information to provide law enforcement.
At least 100 illegal immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Guatemala, were crammed into the back of the truck after crossing the U.S. border.
“If we are able to establish the case, we will go ahead and seek the U visa,” Mintz said in a telephone interview.
Shane Folden, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio, said most of the people found alive at the scene are still in local hospitals. He said it was too early to talk about possible visas.
“There are a number of paths toward immigration relief for situations such as this,” he said in a telephone interview, adding, “we are not at that point yet.”
Of the 39 people found at the scene, 10 have died, 22 were in hospitals and seven have been released and were being questioned, he said.
Most of those aboard the truck fled before authorities could capture them.
DEATH IN VICTORIA
U.S. law enforcement has granted temporary visas previously for immigrants who provided testimony in what is considered the worst illegal immigrant-smuggling case in U.S. history, when 19 people died after traveling in an 18-wheeler truck through Victoria, Texas, in 2003.
Temporary visas for about 40 people aboard that truck helped U.S. prosecutors charge more than a dozen people with conspiracy in the case, prosecutors said at the time.
Alonzo Pena, a former deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said witnesses in the San Antonio case can be released into the community under strict conditions that could include wearing electronic monitoring devices.
Authorities would likely repatriate the others, said Pena, who runs a San Antonio consulting business, in a telephone interview.
A U-visa is valid for four years and offers a path to apply for permanent residency status. Congress limited the number to 10,000 a year, and the program is heavily oversubscribed.
Those on the truck may also try for a T-visa for victims of human trafficking.
Agent Folden said U.S. authorities want to topple the criminal groups responsible for human trafficking.
“Our primary goal is to disrupt and dismantle these organizations,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Jim Forysth in San Antonio and Reade Levinson in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)
Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
July 25, 2017
WASHINGTON—The Justice Department stepped up its pressure on so-called sanctuary cities Tuesday, saying it would withhold grant money from jurisdictions if they don’t allow federal immigration agents into local jails.
The agency announced it would also insist that local officials give federal immigration authorities 48 hours’ notice, if requested, when they are set to release someone from custody.
For months, the Trump administration has been pressuring local jurisdictions to honor the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s “detainers.” These requests ask local officials to hold people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally beyond their release times, so that the agency can arrest and possibly deport them. Many cities and counties resist, for both policy and legal reasons.
This week, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts became the latest court to rule that these detainers are unlawful, and ordered Massachusetts authorities not to honor them.
Administration officials acknowledge that the detainers are requests, not orders, and the new Justice policy stops short of ordering local jails to hold suspects. Rather, they say, the policy orders that local officials notify the federal government when someone is set for release and then allow ICE into the facility to make the arrest. It is unclear if such a policy would pass muster with the courts.
The Justice Department said jurisdictions that don’t follow the rules would lose funding from the Byrne JAG grant program, a decades-old program that provided $347 million in criminal-justice funding to state and local governments last year.
Write to Laura Meckler at email@example.com
New York Times
By Vivian Yee and Rebecca R. Ruiz
July 26, 2017
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday moved once again to punish so-called sanctuary cities, announcing that cities and states could lose millions of dollars in federal grants unless they began cooperating with immigration agents.
Only hours before, President Trump had issued his latest public rebuke of Mr. Sessions, amplifying the criticisms he had leveled on Twitter against his attorney general in a Rose Garden news conference at which the president said that he was “very disappointed” in Mr. Sessions’s performance. Asked about Mr. Sessions’s future employment, Mr. Trump said: “Time will tell. Time will tell.”
Mr. Sessions did not address the unfavorable performance review on Tuesday — it was “business as usual” at the Justice Department, a spokeswoman said — but the sanctuary city announcement signaled that he was far from giving up on the immigration agenda he has zealously pursued since he was a senator from Alabama.
“This is what the American people should be able to expect from their cities and states,” Mr. Sessions said, adding: “These long overdue requirements will help us take down MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs, and make our country safer.”
But it was not clear that he could hold cities to such conditions. Earlier this year, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from withholding funding over sanctuary policies, a ruling the judge, William H. Orrick of United States District Court in San Francisco, recently reaffirmed over the objections of the government, which argued that only a small pool of grants was at stake. On Tuesday evening, officials in sanctuary cities reacted to the announcement with skepticism and hostility.
The San Francisco city attorney, Dennis Herrera, who is suing the Trump administration over its attempts to cut off funding to sanctuary cities, argued in a statement that Mr. Sessions’s latest effort violated the Constitution.
“We are reviewing these new grant documents, but we remain confident that San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies comply with federal law,” he said.
To receive certain grants for local law enforcement, Mr. Sessions said, local governments must agree to allow federal immigration agents access to their jails and to provide 48 hours’ notice before releasing immigrants whom federal authorities want to detain for immigration violations.
Doing so would knock aside a major hurdle for immigration agents trying to carry out Mr. Trump’s policies: Instead of trying to round up unauthorized immigrants on the street or during raids, they would be able to collect their targets straight from local jails.
Cities that are considered sanctuaries usually refuse to hold people on immigration agents’ behalf without a warrant from a judge. Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions and other advocates of curbing immigration have accused such places of flouting the law and helping convicted criminals evade deportation.
Local officials counter that separating local law enforcement from federal immigration authorities is good policy both from a legal standpoint — in the past, they have faced lawsuits over honoring immigration detainers — and from a public safety standpoint, making immigrants more likely to come forward to report crimes and serve as witnesses.
“This whole concept of wanting to withhold federal funding that promotes public safety is counterproductive, especially when cities like New York are not in violation of these rules and are doing a great job of keeping the city safe,” said Nisha Agarwal, New York’s commissioner of immigrant affairs.
Last Friday, Mr. Sessions traveled to Philadelphia, a sanctuary city, to press his immigration agenda. His message was received less than warmly by the city’s mayor and police commissioner, who suggested that Mr. Sessions’s hard-line policy might undermine public safety.
“I don’t personally believe that we belong in the immigration business,” Richard Ross, Philadelphia’s police commissioner, said on Friday. “We need to have people feel they can come forward and work with us without fear of being taken away.”
Mr. Ross said any loss of federal funding would “really profoundly, in a negative way” affect the city.
Philadelphia received $1.7 million through the grant in question in 2016; under the new terms of the program, the city would not be eligible for any funds.
The grant program was worth more than $260 million to states and cities in 2016, and the Trump administration has requested $384 million for the program for the fiscal year that starts in September.
New York City, which was awarded a three-year, $4.3 million grant in September, planned to use the money to hire new 911 operators, crime analysts and prosecutors. The city would not have to return the first chunk, which amounted to $128,000, but the rest of the grant is in doubt.
Ms. Agarwal said the city was, in fact, complying with the first condition Mr. Sessions outlined by allowing immigration agents to interview people at the city jail on Rikers Island. Not so for the second condition: In New York, only people convicted of one or more of 170 serious felonies, such as arson, robbery or murder, within the last five years can be turned over to immigration agents, and only if the agents have a warrant from a judge.
Among the people most concerned about Mr. Sessions’s teetering relationship with Mr. Trump have been fellow immigration restrictionists, who are counting on Mr. Sessions to remake the federal government’s approach to immigration enforcement. On Tuesday, he seemed to be staying the course.
“Sessions just did America a great service, and he did a huge favor for Donald Trump by helping take a first step toward delivering on one of his campaign promises on sanctuary cities,” said Bob Dane, the executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates cutting down on immigration. “Time to bury the hatchet.”
Liz Robbins contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on July 26, 2017, on Page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Sessions Threatens Sanctuary Cities.
By Julia Edwards Ainsley
July 25, 2017
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday released a memo restricting Justice Department grants from going to so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration agents.
The announcement came as Sessions is beset by criticism from President Donald Trump. Conservatives who are proponents of Sessions’ hardline immigration policies have defended him.
(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Toni Reinhold)