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Sessions’ threats could cost Colorado cities millions

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DENVER -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions put so-called sanctuary cities on notice Monday by threatening to withhold millions of dollars from states and cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration laws.

Officials from Denver, Aurora and Boulder were quick to fire back, saying they follow federal law. President Donald Trump and his administration don't seem to agree.

Sessions did not offer many details on Monday, but did say complying with federal immigration laws will be a prerequisite to receiving Department of Justice grants.

"Failure to remedy violations could result in withholding grants, termination of grants, and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants," Sessions said.

The threats are clear, but this is not new policy. The Obama administration also required states and cities to follow immigration laws to receive DOJ money.

Experts say what could be different now is how the Trump administration might interpret the laws and DOJ grant requirements.

Dozens gathered outside Aurora's municipal building on Monday to rally for immigrants' rights. The rally was held before a city council study session on sanctuary cities, a term that does not have a universally accepted definition.

Sheriffs across Colorado say they routinely cooperate with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents but do not honor ICE detainer requests to hold inmates longer than otherwise necessary.

Federal court rulings forbid local authorities from doing so without an arrest warrant. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said detainer requests violate constitutional rights.

Local leaders across the state are now concerned if they do not honor ICE detainer requests, will that mean a loss of millions of dollars for Colorado?

Last year, Denver received $4.3 million from the DOJ. In 2015, Denver was sent about $15 million from the DOJ.

Trump critics said the White House rhetoric is serving as intimidation to get local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Many Trump supporters, though, are OK with the strategy, saying whatever it takes to get the job done.

Denver leaders said they will continue to apply for DOJ grants and in doing so, officials will confidently report that they follow immigration laws.

The Trump administration said it expects to release its second report on cities and counties that do not honor ICE detainer requests later in the week.