U.S. General Attorney Jeff Sessions on Monday warned cities and states protecting immigrant felons from deportation could face cuts in federal grants, and called on citizens to abide by U.S. immigration laws.
But there is widespread resistance to tough immigrant measures, which many Americans consider inhumane. Sporadic demonstrations against deporting immigrants have taken place nationwide.Some politicians have publicly voiced their disapproval.
Texas state Representative Raphael Anchia, a Democrat, said, "It makes our community scared... both the immigrant community and the non-immigrant community alike. And it makes us feel like we're under attack. You've got to realize this comes on the heels of the commander in chief [Donald Trump] calling Mexicans rapists and criminals."
Schools, churches and entire cities have been among those that decided to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
"We will open our doors. We will provide housing and food and facilities so that they can feel safe and at peace," the Rev. Justo Gonzalez, of Pilgrim St. Luke's United Church of Christ in Buffalo, N.Y., said.
But Sessions reminded Americans Monday that failure to deport aliens when they are convicted and detained for certain crimes will bear consequences.
"Moreover, the Department of Justice will require jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with ((U.S. Code)) 1373 as a condition for receiving those awards," he said.
The possibility of losing federal funds has prompted some cities to abandon their sanctuary status.
"It is important for us not to be in it because we don't want to put any of our federal funding at risk - the money that we receive now and the money that we could receive in the future," Mayor Carlos Gimenez, of Miami-Dade County, Florida, said.
But the reaction is not universal. Maryland, which borders the nation's capital, is considering a bill that would make the entire state a sanctuary for immigrants.
Sessions said that would be a grave mistake.
"I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand that this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime.It is not good policy," he said.
President Donald Trump told Congress last month his administration is responding to the pleas of the American people for immigration law enforcement and border security.
"By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone," he said.
The U.S. attorney general said jurisdictions that seek to protect perpetrators of assault, burglaries, drug crimes, rapes and murders put whole communities at risk, including immigrant communities.