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'Sanctuary' communities won't get DOJ money, so will MN be affected?

None of Minnesota's communities consider themselves "sanctuary" – though a few step closer to it than others.

The Department of Justice has an estimated $4.1 billion in grants it expects to award this year.

But if you'e a "sanctuary city" – meaning you don't arrest or detain illegal immigrants and don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials – your access to those grants might be cut off.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who heads the Department of Justice, came down against such sanctuary cities Monday as blatant rulebreakers that "make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets."

And to deter those cities from continuing to be uncooperative, Sessions dangled those $4.1 billion in grants, saying the department will require any jurisdictions that apply for some of the money comply with this federal law in order to get the dough.

The DOJ will also be doing everything it can legally to "claw-back" any funds that had been awarded to jurisdictions that violate the law.

Why? It makes American communities less safe when local authorities have policies "designed to frustrate the enforcement of our immigration laws," Sessions said.

"I urge our nation’s states and cities to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to re-think these policies," he continued.

Will this affect Minnesota?

Any jurisdictions in Minnesota that want DOJ grant money would have to be found compliant with federal law – or might be out of luck for grant money. Whether that would actually happen isn't clear right now.

The three most high-profile jurisdictions to brush up against this new policy would be Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.

Neither Minneapolis or St. Paul use the term "sanctuary city" (which, it's worth noting, doesn't have a consistent or legal definition). Instead, both have separation ordinances: laws that make it clear local law enforcement officers will not do the work of federal immigration agents.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, in the Pioneer Press, wrote about how it works in St. Paul. Basically, no city staff – including police officers – will ask someone for their immigration status. Anyone who lives there can be comfortable using emergency services.

But if someone is suspected of committing a crime, they will be investigated as appropriate, with any federal immigration violations that might come up being handled by the feds.

Minneapolis has a similar separation ordinance. Mayor Betsy Hodges – when stricter immigration policies were announced in January – said the city would "continue to aggressively defend this common-sense practice." She also said city attorneys would make recommendations for how to respond if federal funds were to get cut.

How much would that be? A a city spokesperson told GoMN Minneapolis has received about $5.4 million in DOJ grants over the past five years, for things like body camera programs, group violence intervention, and more.

Hodges also reiterated her earlier comments, writing on Facebook Monday evening that President Donald Trump "continues to try to punish cities that are standing for our people — all of our people."

Then there's the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, which is labeled as a "sanctuary" jurisdiction by the Center for Immigration Studies. But like both the Twin Cities, that office doesn't use the term "sanctuary."

The center's listing refers to a decision made in 2014, when the office said it would no longer comply with detainer requests from ICE to hold people an extra 48 hours at the county jail. That decision was made after new directives from ICE, as well as federal court decisions, determined those requests were discretionary – not mandatory – the sheriff explained at the time.

The county was also on a recent list of jurisdictions that the Department of Homeland Security says did not comply with immigration laws. Though Sheriff Rich Stanek said that list was misleading, and reiterated the county is not a sanctuary for criminals.

We've reached out to the sheriff's office for a comment, and will update this post if we hear back.

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