Sessions says grants to be withheld from sanctuary cities

State and local governments seeking Justice Department grants must certify they are not so-called sanctuary cities in order to receive the money, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsIntel leaders: Collusion still open part of investigation Republicans jockey for position on immigration Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators MORE announced Monday. 
 
“Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” Sessions said during a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room. 
 
“Today, I am urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws.”
 
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The announcement is the latest step by the Trump administration to crack down on sanctuary cities, which do not assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws. 
 
It comes as the White House is seeking to get its agenda back on track after suffering an embarrassing defeat last Friday when Republicans were forced to scrap their long-awaited healthcare plan due to lack of support. 
 
Sessions said that compliance with federal immigration laws will be a prerequisite for states and localities that want to receive grants from the department’s Office of Justice Programs. The office provides billions of dollars in grants and other funding to help criminal justice programs across the country. 
 
Most recently, its Office for Victims of Crime announced a grant of almost $8.5 million in support for victims of last year’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. 
 
Sessions also called on Maryland to scrap any movement toward becoming a sanctuary state. Legislation is making its way through the state legislature. 
 
"That would be such a mistake," he said. 
 
"I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it's not good policy." 
 
During the presidential race, then-GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE made clamping down on sanctuary cities a major piece of his platform. He regularly invited on stage or evoked people whose family members were killed by undocumented immigrants in the U.S. 
 
Just days after his inauguration, the White House issued a broad executive order on interior law enforcement that, among other things, ordered the government to study what grant monies are being received by sanctuary cities and states. It also gave the administration the power to limit grants to sanctuary cities.