WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday signaled it was skeptical of the federal law compliance claims of Chicago and Cook County — both “sanctuary cities” — setting the stage for a possible showdown.

In May, the Justice Department threatened to punish 10 localities, including Chicago and Cook County, asserting they potentially were not following federal law when it came to assisting federal authorities in identifying illegal immigrants.

Chicago and Cook County submitted legal arguments by the Justice Department’s June 30 deadline outlining why they were in compliance with federal law.

On Thursday, the Justice Department signaled a battle ahead in a statement about how the department is reviewing the legal analysis submitted by the 10 sanctuary jurisdictions.

“It is not enough to assert compliance, the jurisdictions must actually be in compliance,” Attorney General Sessions said. “Sanctuary cities put the lives and well-being of their residents at risk by shielding criminal illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities.”

However, there is no evidence that Chicago’s ongoing serious problems with crime are linked to illegal immigrants in the city.

Moreover, in a June 28 briefing at the White House, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan said, “Did I say aliens commit more crimes than U.S. citizens? I didn’t say that. I’m saying, number one, they’re in the country illegally. They’re in the country — they already committed one crime by entering the country illegally. But when they commit a crime against a citizen of this country, they draw our attention.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s spokesman Adam Collins said in reply to the Justice Department statement, “This is more misdirection from the Trump administration, designed to play to the president’s political base rather than support public safety.

“Even the acting ICE director has acknowledged just last week that undocumented immigrants do not commit more crimes. Chicago will continue to stand by our values, Chicago will continue to be a welcoming city to all, and Chicago — like other cities — will continue doing so in compliance with federal law.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s spokesman Frank Shuftan said, “We obviously disagree with some of the assertions in the letter and stand by our longstanding position that we comply with all relevant federal laws.”