NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently fired back at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over claims that New Orleans is a sanctuary city.

Landrieu issued a statement on May 23 in which he said his city is in compliance with federal immigration laws.

The statement came after the DOJ sent letters to nine jurisdictions across the country, including New Orleans, warning them that they were at risk of not qualifying for federal grant money. 

The Trump administration labeled the jurisdictions sanctuary cities, or communities that have refused to comply with federal immigration authorities.

Other jurisdictions included California, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

"If anybody in the Trump administration would actually do some research before firing off letters, they would see that the City of New Orleans has already provided the Department of Justice documentation that shows we are in compliance with federal immigration laws," Landrieu said.

Landrieu said the city will send documentation to the government again, but he reiterated that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) would not be a part of the Trump administration's deportation force.

"This is another example of the Trump administration acting before doing their homework," Landrieu said. "We will send all the documents requested by the federal government again, but the NOPD will not be a part of President Trump's civil deportation force no matter how many times they ask."

Though Landrieu said he had the support of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, the attorney general criticized the mayor's approach.

"By continuing to push his radical agenda, the mayor is going to lose pivotal funds that pay for police officers, placing an even heavier burden on the taxpayers of Louisiana through the supplemental services of the (Louisiana State Police)," Landry said in a statement.

Landrieu, however, defended his position.

"The NOPD’s policy on immigration makes New Orleans safer because individuals are more likely to report crime, and victims and witnesses can testify without fear of being questioned about their immigration status," Landrieu said. "That’s why the NOPD will continue to focus on arresting those who commit violent crimes"

The controversy started in March when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to get tough on sanctuary cities by making them ineligible for DOJ funding.

The DOJ claimed that New Orleans and eight other jurisdictions were not in compliance with Section 1373 and would not be eligible for grants. In fiscal year 2016, the DOJ's Office of Justice Programs issued 3,000 grants, totaling $3.9 billion.

"These grants support law enforcement and justice programs that the people of New Orleans rely on and sorely need, especially in light of the rampant crime in our city,’’ Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said in a March 30 letter. "Justice Department grants to our city included grants for comprehensive law enforcement strategies, programs for justice and mental health, an anti-human trafficking task force, a sexual assault kit initiative and a youth violence prevention team. Retaining the current policies of the New Orleans Police Department about reporting immigration status and any other refusal by city officials to cooperate in enforcing federal immigration law puts future funding at risk.’’

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