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Under protest, City Hall will comply with feds’ request on immigration documents

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions | AP file photo

Under protest, City Hall plans to hand over to the Department of Justice documents it demanded Wednesday as Attorney General Jeff Sessions upped the ante on the national sanctuary city fight — with the threat of subpoenas.

The DOJ demanded records from Chicago, Cook County and the state of Illinois that could show whether officials here and in 20 other governments across the nation are unlawfully refusing to share information with federal immigration authorities.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins said the city would deliver the requested documents to the DOJ. But when it does, he said it plans to place on top a federal judge’s recent order siding with Chicago in the sanctuary city battle “that proves that we’re right legally, because we already know that we’re right morally.”

The state and Cook County also plan to provide the documents, officials said. Failure to do so could trigger the subpoenas, according to the DOJ.

“We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement — enough is enough,” Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions issued his threat just as Emanuel gathered with other big-city mayors at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C. Emanuel used a news conference there to accuse the Trump Administration of blowing smoke to keep the mayors from criticizing the president’s infrastructure plan.

“The president of the United States and his administration purposely issued the subpoena [threat] today because they did not want to have a conversation about infrastructure and we all would see that the emperor has no clothes,” Emanuel said. “That is what’s going on.”

But Trump called the move a “critical legal step to hold accountable sanctuary cities,” which he said “are the best friend of gangs and cartels.”

Just last week, a federal appellate panel in Chicago also heard arguments from a Trump administration lawyer. The DOJ wants an order lifted prohibiting it from withholding law-enforcement grant money from cities that refuse to follow tough new Justice Department immigration requirements.

That order, from U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, is the one City Hall plans to include when it responds to Sessions’ document request.

The head of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority said it would turn over the requested documents to the Justice Department. John Maki, its executive director, said it would do so in a timely manner, adding that “the state is confident that it is in compliance” with the law.

Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said the county would do the same, just as it has in the past.

“That said, we remain committed to ensuring that all Cook County residents have the same access to justice, regardless of their socio-economic status, education level, skin color, ZIP code and immigration status,” Shuftan said.

Sessions’ inclusion of Illinois’ state government on his list of targets continues to put Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in an awkward spot. The Justice Department tossed Illinois onto its “sanctuary” list last fall after Rauner signed the Illinois Trust Act.

Rauner faces a primary challenge from State Rep. Jeanne Ives, who has said that bill made Illinois a “sanctuary state.”

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles