United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned Thursday that cities in the country that refuse to focus their energy on crimes committed by illegal immigrants would be barred from taking part in a new crime reduction initiative. The US Justice Department unveiled the initiative earlier this year.

US sanctuary cities make us less safe

While giving the warning, the Attorney General focused his attention on four police departments that had shown an interest in participating in the new justice department initiative. Sessions said that to be allowed into the program, the four police departments would be required to answer a list of questions by August 18 this year, The Washington Examiner reported.

In answering the questions, police departments will be needed to confirm that they have not put in place any policies to protect illegal immigrants from getting deported. The authorities will be required to allow U.S. federal immigration officials access to local jails. The U.S. top lawman claimed that cities which protect criminals from immigration enforcement agencies make everyone in the country less safe.

The Business Insider reported that "the four police departments that must respond are Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore, Maryland; and San Bernardino and Stockton, California." Those departments did not provide feedback when requested by the news outlet.

Trump wants less legal migrants

Jeff Session's declaration casts a spotlight on President Donald Trump's wider efforts to deal with the thorny and controversial issue of illegal immigration.

President Trump has urged the U.S. Congress to approve funding for the construction of a wall along the country's border with Mexico.

Since taking office, Trump has ordered immigration officials to widen the net on illegals targeted for potential deportation. This week, the president voiced his support for a bill being developed by two Republican lawmakers.

The bill, proposed by Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, promises to reduce legal immigration by fifty per cent.

The new program by the Justice Department is a three-year plan whose aim is to target areas with high rates of violent crime. Dubbed the National Public Safety Partnership, the initiative was launched in June.

Push against Trump's immigration policy

When the initiative was first launched, twelve US cities were selected. The cities include New York, Houston, and Attorney General Jeff Session's home state of Birmingham, Alabama.

While it remains unclear on how cities interested in the initiative will respond to Session's comments, some have reacted negatively to the Trump administration's approach to the issue of immigration.