California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León on Monday called Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plan to block Justice Department grant funding to sanctuary cities “nothing short of blackmail.”
During a daily press briefing earlier in the day, Sessions said the Justice Department will require compliance with immigration laws in order for cities to receive grants through the Office of Justice Programs, according to The Associated Press. The news organization reported that the Obama administration had a similar policy in place.
Although definitions vary, sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, typically refuse to help the federal government enforce immigration laws. During the campaign, President Donald Trump pledged to take federal funding away from sanctuary cities.
“When it comes to immigrants and sanctuary counties and cities, the Attorney and the President are stuck on alternative facts,” de León said in a statement.
“Instead of making us safer, the Trump administration is spreading fear and promoting race-based scapegoating. Their gun-to-the-head method to force resistant cities and counties to participate in Trump’s inhumane and counterproductive mass-deportation is unconstitutional and will fail.”
De León pointed to a report by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute in Washington, that found lower crime rates in sanctuary cities compared to non-sanctuary cities.
Several bills moving through the California Legislature are related to sanctuary cities.
De León is pushing SB 54, which prohibits state and local law enforcement in California from using their resources to assist the federal government with immigration enforcement. A recent amendment requires state prisons and county jails to notify the FBI 60 days before releasing an undocumented immigrant with a violent felony conviction.
Another bill, AB 440, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, calls on the state Department of Finance to convene a working group and compile a report on the financial loss to sanctuary cities throughout California if federal funding is reduced or eliminated.
AB 450, a bill from Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would bar private and public employers from allowing federal immigration enforcement agents on workplace property without a warrant. It also prevents employers from voluntarily providing employee records to federal immigration authorities without a subpoena, among other protections for immigrants.