Some Albuquerque, N.M., elected officials are accusing the Justice Department of political gamesmanship by withholding millions of dollars in federal funds over the city's sanctuary city status that prevents the sharing of information with immigration authorities.
John Anderson, the top federal prosecutor for the district of New Mexico, penned an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal on Monday saying additional federal funding would come with conditions, including complying with a federal law that makes it illegal to prevent government employees from sharing information about peoples' immigration status with federal law enforcement.
“We just won’t do that. They’re using this as a political stunt,” said Democratic Councilor Pat Davis.
Anderson noted that 2019 was Albuquerque's deadliest year with 82 homicides recorded. He said additional funding would help curb the violence. Albuquerque officials said the DOJ is holding out on a promise of more federal funds to get the city to reconsider its sanctuary policies.
“As a matter of principle, Albuquerque should use every tool at its disposal to reduce violent crime and make our city safer,” Anderson wrote.
In 2018, the city adopted a resolution sponsored by Davis and Councilor Klarissa Peña that reaffirmed Albuquerque as an immigrant-friendly city. It prevents federal immigration officials from entering city-operated areas and restricts employees from collecting information about a person's immigration status.
Albuquerque has not applied for the funding, which is available under the Operation Relentless Pursuit program announced in December to combat violent crime in several cities. Up to $71 million in grant funding was promised to help with hiring new officers, paying overtime and providing equipment and technology.
The city is already in a battle with the Justice Department over funding to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits. The Trump administration has heavily criticized sanctuary cities and has sought to withhold federal funds from municipalities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Attorney General William Barr has brought lawsuits against New Jersey and King County, Washington, claiming they are violating federal law by refusing to share information about criminal suspects who are undocumented immigrants.
"When we are talking about sanctuary cities, we are talking about policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape," Barr recently said at the National Sheriff’s Association 2020 Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington, D.C.
"These policies are not about people who came to our country illegally but have otherwise been peaceful and productive members of society," he added. "Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes. This is neither lawful nor sensible."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported last week that hundreds of Southern California jail inmates whom the agency had detainer requests for were re-arrested for assault, rape, child sex offenses and other charges over a two-year period once they were released.
Fox News' Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.