The Department of Homeland Security has asked federal prosecutors to examine the possibility of bringing criminal charges against leaders of so-called sanctuary cities, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told lawmakers Tuesday.
"The Department of Justice is reviewing what avenues may be available," Nielsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee. The secretary added that sanctuary policies were "putting my [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers at risk."
The Trump administration has vowed to withhold federal money from localities that refuse to give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.
Earlier this month, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto" that politicians should be held "personally accountable" for crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
"We've got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes," Tom Homan said in the Jan. 2 appearance.
California recently passed a statewide sanctuary policy that took effect Jan. 1, and cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia have adopted them.
A federal judge has blocked the Justice Department's effort to halt funding to those locations.
Last month, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., introduced a bill threatening elected officials in sanctuary cities with fines and prison time.
"Politicians don't get to pick and choose what laws to comply with," Rokita told Fox News at the time "Americans are dying because politicians sworn to uphold the law refuse to do so."
Rokita introduced the bill in the wake of the Kate Steinle trial, in which an illegal immigrant who had been deported to Mexico five times was acquitted of murdering Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.