De Blasio Defends New York Policies on Immigration

At stake is what amounts to a blip in the city budget. But for officials in New York, as in several other cities with large immigrant populations, it is about the principle more than the federal money they stand to lose for their so-called sanctuary city policies.

On Wednesday, the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a letter to the Justice Department asserting that the city was cooperating with immigration officials to the extent required under federal law and that the city should not, as the Justice Department has argued, forfeit a $4.3 million federal law enforcement grant.

The letter, and others sent from cities like New Orleans and Philadelphia, came amid a burst of activity on immigration in Washington. As the House prepared to vote on Thursday on two bills to crack down on undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, President Trump cheered the legislation for getting the “bad people” out of American cities.

New York officials said the city’s pledge to protect hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant residents did not mean the city was breaking federal law.

“Being a sanctuary city does not mean that you are out of compliance or trying to violate federal law in any way,” Nisha Agarwal, the commissioner for immigrant affairs, said in an interview. “We can promote policies and programs that are supportive of immigrant communities and protect public safety.”

New York was one of several jurisdictions cited by the Obama administration in 2016 for policies that could interfere with federal law. The jurisdictions, including California and the cities Chicago, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Philadelphia, had until June 30 to submit letters of compliance.

A Justice Department spokesman said he could not comment on how long it would take to review the letters.

By Liz Robbins for The New York Times
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