U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called for an end of "sanctuary cities," saying municipalities that allow such policies could lose out on federal funds.
"Such policies make their cities and states less safe," Sessions said Monday at a White House press briefing. "Public safety as well as national security are at stake and put them at risk of losing federal dollars."
The comments reaffirm what is stated in the president's immigration enforcement executive order signed in late January.
However, AG Sessions specified this week that the funding at risk would be Department of Justice grants, through the Office of Justice Programs and Community Oriented Policing.
Sessions also said that receiving funds would depend on compliance with U.S.C. Section 1373, a policy that took effect under the Obama administration.
"DOJ will also take all lawful steps to claw back any funds awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates 1373," the Attorney General said Monday.
The federal code mentioned requires local jurisdictions to share citizenship or immigration status information with federal authorities, if requested.
However, so-called sanctuary cities, such as Seattle, don't ask about immigration status, as policy. Therefore it's unclear how compliance would be determined.
“We aren’t collecting the information. The courts have said we don’t have to collect the information," Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said.
“We don’t have anything to communicate with them," Murray said, talking about the federal code.
Murray says a group of mayors are pushing for additional clarity to learn more about how the Trump administration plans to identify sanctuary cities at risk of losing funding.
The city of Seattle receives an estimated $10 million in total federal law enforcement funding, according to the Mayor's Office.
“We will continue to push for that clarity, and we will keep our options open, legally," Murray said. "We believe that under the rule of law, which clearly says that cities do not have to cooperate with ICE, that they are the ones we may have to end up taking to court."
As part of the policy, local police officers do not inquire or report the immigration status of criminal suspects or victims, nor do area jails comply with ICE detainer requests, unless accompanied by a warrant signed by a Judge.
“Just like the original executive order targeting so-called ‘sanctuary cities,’ today’s press statements in D.C. provided little if any legal clarity to guide otherwise law abiding Welcoming Cities like Seattle,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement Monday.
Holmes said his office continues to work alongside the Mayor’s to “explore all avenues to protect Seattle’s interests and values.”
Seattle is one of more than a dozen cities and counties in Washington State identified as sanctuary cities, an unofficial term, used to describe local governments that are more lenient in how they comply with federal immigration laws.
"All of the policies or practices the state has adopted are and will continue to be consistent with federal law," said a spokesman for Governor Jay Inslee. "The governor has been clear that Washington will continue to be a place where all are welcome despite what country they come from, language they speak or religion they practice."