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U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question during a joint news conference with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto in East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Trump Vows to Withhold Funds From Sanctuary Cities: ‘Do Not Protect Criminals!’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would withhold money from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions after a U.S. court ruled that his administration could block federal law enforcement funds to states and cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

“As per recent Federal Court ruling, the Federal Government will be withholding funds from Sanctuary Cities. They should change their status and go non-Sanctuary. Do not protect criminals!” Trump tweeted, but gave no other details.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan granted the move on Feb. 26, but three other federal appeals courts have agreed to uphold an injunction against the withholding of such funds, setting up a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The appeals court decision reversed a lower court ruling and set up a possible appeal to the Supreme Court, which often resolves legal disputes that divide lower courts.

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In the ruling, Judge Reena Raggi said the case “implicates several of the most divisive issues confronting our country” including immigration policy and law enforcement, illegal immigrants and the ability of state and local governments to adopt policies the federal government dislikes.

In 2017, Trump’s administration conditioned receipt of funds known as Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants on state and local government’s willingness to provide federal immigration authorities with access to their jails as well as advance notice of immigrants’ release from custody.

The policy affected nearly $26 million of annual grants to the seven states and $4 million to New York City.

Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has intensified his fight against Democratic-led “sanctuary” jurisdictions whose laws or policies make it harder for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to track down and arrest immigrants they consider deportable.

He has taken a hardline stance toward legal and illegal immigration, often highlighting crimes committed by people in the country illegally.

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(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)

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