NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A Louisiana senator says if the New Orleans mayor doesn't sit down with the Department of Justice soon, the city could lose millions of dollars. That's because DOJ is threatening to cut funding to so-called sanctuary cities.
"The mayor contends New Orleans is not a sanctuary city, but the DOJ says New Orleans is a sanctuary city, and they are controlling the money," said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA.
The Justice Department, in it's letter, said if the City of New Orleans and others don't prove they are in compliance with federal immigration laws by June 30, the city could lose federal grants.
"We get a lot of money from DOJ to fund the police department. I think we get as much as $9 million some years, and DOJ has complete discretion on those grants," said Kennedy.
In the past, the mayor has said the city is in compliance.
"I have offered to mediate a meeting with Mitch, he wants to wait on legal rulings, which I understand," said Kennedy.
The mayor's officer released the following statement:
"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. There was an entire hearing before the United States Congress where both the Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the Department of Justice confirmed on the record that New Orleans complies with all federal laws. This is another example of the Trump Administration acting before doing their homework. 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.
"The Department of Justice, the federal consent decree monitor and the Federal judge overseeing the consent decree have approved the immigration policy and it has served us well. Going back to September of 2015, officials at the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were consulted in the drafting of NOPD's immigration policy. This agency, which is responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws, never expressed any concern with the NOPD's policy.
"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. That's why the NOPD will continue to focus on arresting those who commit violent crimes"
Kennedy wants to get this issue settled and move on to other more pressing concerns, like the recovery from last year's flood.
"We shot a couple of toes off, but what's done is done," said Kennedy.
Kennedy is ready to begin pushing for $2 billion more for the flood recovery, but he said a state misstep in hiring a contractor has held up the distribution of $1.6 billion already in the bank. Kennedy said the contractor selection process was flawed due to the involvement of former state Sen. Larry Bankston, who was involved in a selection process that wound up recommending that a company in which Bankston's son was involved get a $350 million flood recovery contract.
"That went across Capitol Hill like a brush fire, so we had to start over," said Kennedy.
The state scrapped the earlier process, and now, a new contractor is in place. and in spite of the misstep, Kennedy says he's prepared to fight for more money to help, with the recovery.
Kennedy says the flood recovery money needs to get past the Office of Management and Budget, and both houses of Congress, and will not be a 'slam dunk'. But he says the need is great, and the fight is just beginning.