No doubt in the expectation that the incoming Trump administration will begin requiring “sanctuary cities” to conform with immigration law or pay the price, fiscally and legally, many of them have released thousands of illegal alien criminals ahead of the president-elect’s inauguration, rather than cooperate with federal officials in seeing them out of the country, the Washington Times reported.

In all, sanctuary cities have freed more than 2,000 illegal aliens in fiscal year 2016 rather than turn them over to federal immigration authorities, as they are required by law to do. And even though the Obama administration has made some headway in cutting down the number of sanctuary cities, some 279 remain and have vowed to continue defying the law.

The Times noted further:

The numbers were part of Homeland Security’s year-end immigration enforcement update, which said border agents and officers are reporting more illegal immigrants attempting to cross into the U.S., in what has been dubbed a new surge of migration.

Yet fewer are being caught in the interior by ICE, as President Obama continued to make good on his vow to stop deporting all but the most serious of illegal immigrants.

Last year, ICE caught 114,000 illegal immigrants, the lowest number in Mr. Obama’s tenure. That represented only 1 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants believed to be at large in the U.S.

More than 90 percent of those ICE apprehended had criminal convictions, had gang ties, were deemed national security risks, were new illegal arrivals or were defying active orders of deportation.

The days of openly defying federal immigration laws for these cities may be coming to a close. If he is confirmed by the Senate to become Trump’s attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has vowed to cut off some federal funding to sanctuary cities and has even suggested pursuing criminal charges against elected officials there:

Led by Philadelphia and Cook County in Illinois, which refuse all cooperation with the federal government, sanctuaries are likely to be one of the thorniest issues confronting Donald Trump as president. He has vowed penalties for defying immigration laws.

Mr. Trump’s selection to be attorney general [Sessions] has also expressed support for blocking some federal funds from sanctuary cities — and even suggested bringing criminal charges against them.

To be fair, the Obama administration has also been demanding that cities hand over at least the most dangerous of illegal aliens, including those deemed national security risks. But officials in some cities and municipalities, like Cook County, Illinois (home to Chicago), and Philadelphia have refused even to hand them over to immigration officials.

The paper also reported:

ICE has been making some progress. In fiscal year 2015, there were 395 jurisdictions that acted as sanctuaries, refusing to turn over a total of 8,546 illegal immigrants that were being sought by ICE agents. In 2016, the number of jurisdictions dropped to 279, and the total number of illegal immigrants shielded was down by more than three-quarters to 2,008. It’s not a straight 1-to-1 comparison, however, because ICE likely stopped asking in 2016 for detainers on some illegal immigrants in communities that have gained reputations for refusing to cooperate.

Clamping down on sanctuary cities while building a border wall and deporting those in the country illegally has been a primary objective of Trump’s since he first announced he was running for the presidency in July 2015.

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