The Justice Department is threatening to force three states and twenty cities to turn over records related to compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent letters on Wednesday to officials from California, Oregon, Illinois, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, among others. Sessions claimed he was seeking the information in the interest of "public safety."
"If these jurisdictions fail to respond to our request, fail to respond completely or fail to respond in a timely manner, we will exercise our lawful authorities and issue subpoenas for the information," an anonymous department official told reporters on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
The subpoena threats came after a previous round of letters. Thirty-eight jurisdictions were contacted over ICE cooperation policy in April and November last year, as McClatchy reported. An anonymous "senior DOJ official" told the news service that recipients of Wednesday’s letter "either did not respond or responded inadequately." Other recipients of the first series of letters were either deemed compliant or are still being reviewed.
Last year, Sessions ordered the department to withhold agency grants from so-called "sanctuary cities." He was thwarted on numerous occasions. Federal District Courts in Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia ruled that the decree was illegal.
Critics of mandated cooperation with ICE "argue that those policies can hurt public safety by making immigrants afraid to talk to police," as The Los Angeles Times noted Wednesday.
Either way, there has been no proven link between undocumented immigrants and crime. Some research has shown foreign-born US residents are less likely to commit crimes than their American-born neighbors.
The term "sanctuary city" is also something of a misnomer. As Reuters noted, officials from those jurisdictions "honor requests from immigration authorities when accompanied by a criminal warrant."