The department said New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Cook County in IL along with its largest city Chicago, "have preliminarily been found" to have policies that violate the law. Though this rule is aimed at barring questions about immigrants' legal status, DOJ says it could be interpreted to bar NYPD members from requesting immigration info from federal immigration officers, which would be illegal.
One program in jeopardy is a $4.3 million grant through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, named for the NYPD officer who was ambushed in 1988 while protecting a witness who had agreed to testify against local drug dealers in Queens. Critics have dubbed such places "sanctuary cities".
"I urge all jurisdictions found to be out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents", Sessions said.
A law enforcement grant received by the city requires compliance with the law, the letter states.
The Justice Department also found Chicago, New Orleans, New York City and Cook County, Illinois, to be in violation.
Milwaukee County and the State of CT, which did not receive letters in the initial review, were also found to be compliant.
"Jurisdictions that adopt so-called "sanctuary policies" also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a release.
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The Justice Department said it had found no evidence that four other jurisdictions - Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Clark County, Nevada, Miami-Dade County, Florida and the State of CT - were in violation of the statue, known as Section 1373. That order was blocked by a nationwide judicial injunction in April.
The police memo, dated May 17, 2001, is created to encourage immigrants to utilize city services without fear of reprisal. The DOJ letter Wednesday demanded that the city give proof that NOPD officers are allowed to contact federal immigration authorities to ask about a person's immigration status.
Those areas whose laws the DOJ said might violate federal law have until October 27 to send evidence that they are in compliance.
The DOJ claims that an NOPD policy "may" violate a federal statute that deals with how local governments provide information to federal immigration officials "depending on how your jurisdiction interprets and applies them", Alan Hanson, acting assistant attorney general wrote.
The city has said its policies are legal, and vowed to sue if money is actually taken away. But his office did not immediately comment on the letter.
Sanctuary cities can be denied federal dollars under President Trump's January 25 executive order created to crack down on localities that protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration authorities.