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Milwaukee County prepares to sue over President Trump's threats to cut federal grants for sanctuary cities

As the city of Chicago sues the Justice Department over President Trump's threats to cut federal grants for sanctuary cities, Milwaukee County is preparing to do the same should the need arise.

CBS 58's Garna Mejia is hearing from the County Board of Supervisors on their plans to keep their federal funds.

The county gets millions of dollars from Federal Department of Justice Grant Programs. They say about $900,000 is at stake if the Federal Government deems they aren't cooperating with ICE.

Milwaukee County is one of at least 10 jurisdictions being questioned for refusing to follow 8 USC Section 1373, a law which prohibits government entities from refusing to share information with INS over the citizenship status of any individual.

The law specifically states, "Not withstanding any provision of federal, state, or local law, a federal, state, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."

"Our policies and procedures and practices are in compliance but because we have made public resolutions stating that we are in support of our immigrant communities here in Milwaukee, I feel like we're being penalized for that," said Supervisor Peggy West, 12th district.

On June 28th, the county submitted what is referred to as legal certification stating that they are in compliance with the law.

According to a letter from The Department of Justice, failure to comply with the condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, estimated at $900,000 for Milwaukee County. Those are funds that directly impact neighborhoods with programs like the community justice council and community prosecutors.

"We are in compliance and we have been in compliance again because the sheriff has always agreed and always cooperated with ICE," West said. 

Though legal definitions for what a sanctuary city is are hazy, Milwaukee County is not considered to fit the description.

For now, the board has approved a resolution allocating $50,000 to pursue legal action against the Justice Department and fight for their funds.

"I completely agree with the mayor in Chicago, I do think that the DOJ is doing this to bully cities that are sanctuary cities. It is my understanding and our corporation counsel's understanding that what the federal government is doing is illegal and it will get ruled on as being illegal," West said.

The County Board of Supervisors says they are waiting to hear back from the Justice Department and have not received, as of yet, any communication indicating they won't be invited to apply for the funds.   

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