The US attorney-general on Monday urged local and state governments to enforce federal immigration laws, warning that so-called sanctuary cities would be at risk of losing funding if they fail to comply.

Jeff Sessions said that governments that protect immigrants who have run afoul of federal rules have put “communities at risk”.

“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe”, he said at a surprise appearance at the daily White House press conference.

“Countless Americans would be alive today” if the cities had chosen to comply with the federal regulations, he added.

The comments from Mr Sessions align with one of President Donald Trump’s central campaign pledges: to take a much tougher stance on immigration than the previous administration.

Mr Trump suffered a powerful political blow late last week when Republican leadership in the House of Representatives failed to wrangle moderates and conservatives within the GOP to support a repeal of Obamacare — another pledge made by the property developed turned politician.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman was quick to response to Mr Sessions’s remarks, saying:

Despite what Attorney General Sessions implied this afternoon, state and local governments and law enforcement have broad authority under the Constitution to not participate in federal immigration enforcement.

As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families.

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