>> The Trump administration, on Wednesday, escalated its battle with so-called sanctuary cities that shield illegal immigrants from deportation. The Justice Department demanded that the nation's three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and 20 others, turn over documents related to their handling of immigration data. The move came just hours before Trump met with the nation's mayors at the White House and defended the decision.
>> As you know the Department of Justice, today, has announced a critical legal step to hold accountable sanctuary cities that violate federal law and free criminal aliens back into our communities. We can't have that, we can't have it.>> An official told reporters the Justice Department planned to subpoena those cities, if they fail to provide information on their oversight of illegal immigrants.
The administration accuses sanctuary cities of violating a federal law requiring them to share arrest data with the US immigration officials. Some cities have argued complying with that law is voluntary and say they will only turn over the data in response to a criminal warrant. Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and New York's Bill de Blasio are among several big city mayors who have publicly defied Trump on the issue.
>> We all operate with community policing, where you build a relationship between the law enforcement community, the residents, in working together to reduce public safety threats and working together to build trust. You cannot do that if you drive a wedge between any immigrant community and the law enforcement.
>> The latest move comes after Homeland Security Chief Kirstjen Nielsen, this month, told a Senate panel the Trump administration is exploring whether it might criminally charge state and local officials who enact immigration laws that counter federal rules. Wednesday's action is part of Trump's broader crackdown on illegal immigrants, including an executive order to block funding to cities that defy Washington on immigration.
That order has since been blocked in federal court.