Attorney General Jeff Sessions outside the White House on Monday. (Al Drago/The New York Times)

The Trump administration escalated its confrontation with so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, threatening them anew Friday with the loss of grant money if they do not remove certain barriers.

The Justice Department sent letters to officials in New York City, Philadelphia, California and other places that were singled out last year by the agency’s inspector general for regulations that interfere with the ability of police or sheriffs to communicate with federal immigration authorities about the status of prisoners in their custody.

“Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the Justice Department said in a news release accompanying the letters.

The agency cited the rising murder rate in Chicago, blamed gang murders in New York on what it labeled a “soft on crime” stance and complained that after recent arrests of 11 members of the MS-13 Salvadoran street gang, the deputy police chief of Santa Cruz, Calif., had stressed that the raid was unrelated to immigration instead of “warning other MS-13 members that they would be next.”

President Trump ran on a platform of cracking down on illegal immigration and issued an executive order during his first week in office aimed at starting that process. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned that recipients of federal law enforcement grants were required to comply with a 1996 law, which bars the local authorities from forcing officials to withhold information from federal immigration authorities about people’s immigration status.

The recipients of the letters were warned that as a condition of receiving 2016 grants, they must certify by June 30 that they are in compliance with the 20-year-old law. That enforced a hard deadline on a policy first put in place under the Obama administration, which announced the policy last July but gave cities that were not in compliance time to adjust.

After Mr. Sessions’ remarks last month, several municipal leaders vowed defiance; Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that he would fight in court any attempt to strip funding from the city. In 2014, the city enacted a law that barred the Correction Department from telling Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials about an inmate’s release date, incarceration status or coming court dates unless the inmate was the subject of a detainer request supported by a judicial warrant.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Charlie Savage

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