DOJ threatens to subpoena 23 jurisdictions over sanctuary city policies

CHICAGO -- The U.S. Justice Department sent letters to Chicago and other sanctuary cities on Wednesday threatening to withhold federal grants.

The letters warn that the department could use subpoena power to force cities to provide documents showing they aren't withholding information about the immigration status of people in custody. The letters are part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' promised crackdown on sanctuary cities.

The 23 jurisdictions sent letters include Chicago and the State of Illinois.

To build trust with undocumented immigrants, a number of local jurisdictions refuse certain cooperation with federal immigration officials. It’s a practice the Trump administration is trying to end, and on Wednesday, the Department of Justice upped the stakes.

Chicago is just one of two dozen cities, states and counties that the Trump Justice Department is warning. The feds are threatening to subpoena documents related to cooperation with federal immigration agents. The DOJ is demanding proof each jurisdiction is in compliance with information sharing laws.

The hot-button issue was front and center in Washington on Wednesday at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will not be intimidated.

“The idea that the president of the United States, the Justice Department would arrest any one of us for believing in our ideals and is wrong,” he said.

As part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on sanctuary cities, the Justice Department has threatened to deny millions of dollars of grant money from jurisdictions that refuse to share immigration information.

“We cannot allow people to pick and choose what laws they want to follow. If we have a country with no laws, then nothing matters. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Last year, the City of Chicago sued the Justice Department over demands that it cooperates in order to receive a public safety grant. Back in September, a win for Chicago, a judge blocked the Trump administration rules. But the battle continues.

“The White House has been very clear that we don’t support sanctuary cities,” Huckabee Sanders said.

“The City of Chicago, which was the only city back in the Civil War that did not participate in the Fugitive Slave Act, it was the first welcoming city in the United States and the city of Chicago will not turn its back on people who believe for their children American is still is a place of promise,” Mayor Emanuel said.

Mayor Emanuel is defiant but the Justice Department said it will seek the return of certain federal grant money if a jurisdiction is determined to have violated the law.

Neither side is backing down.