Byline: Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday told a House panel that his agency will not tolerate interference by so-called "sanctuary cities" when it comes to hiring illegal aliens.
Mr. Chertoff said his agency will enforce the Basic Pilot Program that requires businesses to check the legal status of new employees by matching Social Security numbers and information in Homeland Security Department databases.
Mr. Chertoff told the House Homeland Security Committee: "I certainly wouldn't tolerate interference" by cities who attempt to block the program.
"We're exploring our legal options," Mr. Chertoff said. "I intend to take as vigorous legal action as the law allows to prevent that from happening, prevent that kind of interference."
Mr. Chertoff stopped short of threatening "sanctuary cities" by withholding government funding.
"I don't know that I have the authority to cut off all Homeland Security funds if I disagree with the city's policy on immigration," Mr. Chertoff said. "And of course, I have to say the consequence of that might be to put the citizens at risk, you know, in the event of a natural disaster.
"I don't want to put people's lives at risk, but I do think where the law gives me the power to prevent anybody from interfering with our activities, we will use the law to prevent that interference," Mr. Chertoff said.
Sanctuary cities are those that have adopted policies banning police officers or other city employees from asking about immigration status. Some sanctuary cities have gone further: The city of New Haven, Conn., now issues identification cards regardless of legal status.
Other "sanctuary cities" include the District, Baltimore, New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis, Miami and Denver.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Florida Republican, suggested withholding federal funding to sanctuary cities from other nonemergency departments might steer cities away from providing sanctuary. …