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Feds Threaten To Cut Baltimore Crime-Fighting Aid If Police Don't Cooperate With ICE

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore could use all the help it can get to control violent crime, but the federal Justice Department says it might hold back some of that help.

Alex DeMetrick reports, it's all tied to cracking down on illegal immigrants.

Cities with high rates of violence are being offered crime fighting help from the Justice Department.

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions says Baltimore might not get it, unless city police cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and turn over illegal immigrants who have been arrested.

In response, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis states, "Baltimore is a welcoming city. We do not enforce federal immigration laws. We do, however, enforce the criminal laws of the state of Maryland and honor criminal arrest warrants obtained by federal law enforcement agencies."

It's not those caught by ICE agents that are the issue. It's the illegal immigrants in city jails that Sessions wants the city to turn over.

"Obviously he doesn't know who controls immigration in our city," Mayor Catherine Pugh said at a press conference Thursday. "As you all know well, we don't control the jails here, the state does."

There are Maryland jurisdictions that work with ICE. Frederick County has for years, and more recently, Harford County.

"We are not conducting immigration enforcement in the streets of Maryland," Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has said.

Instead, databases for warrants and immigration status are done in jail, and ICE agents are notified.

"To move away from those screenings and let individuals back out into Harford County certainly puts our citizens at risk and endangers public safety," Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler says.

The state policy in Baltimore's jail is to review federal requests on a case by case basis. The city has not received such a request in two years.

Governor Larry Hogan's office has yet to comment on the Department of Justice threat to withhold crime fighting aid.

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