The issue encompasses not only violent crime but also the Trump administration's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
Van Hollen told Sessions that Baltimore was invited last year to apply for the Public Safety Partnership — a program the department says leverages federal resources "to reduce violence in cities with the highest violent crime rates in the nation."
The Trump administration has sought to withhold federal funds from state and local authorities that, Sessions said Wednesday, "have undertaken to undo our immigration laws" by releasing "criminal aliens back into the community" when they should be processed and deported.
"We cannot continue giving federal grants to cities that actively undermine the safety of federal law officers and intentionally frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities," Sessions said in prepared testimony.
"We have had, I think, more than one — certainly one — circumstance in which the jail was run by somebody else other than the jurisdiction," he said. "So that created a problem and actually led to the approval of the grants. So I'd be glad to look at that."
Democratic lawmakers from Maryland have said the Republican administration is trying to compel Baltimore to adhere to a "mass-deportation agenda."
"Immigration enforcement is a matter for the federal government," they wrote to Sessions last August. "State and localities should not be coerced into trying to enforce federal immigration laws or ask individuals about their immigration status."
It is not certain how much grant money Baltimore could receive if it were accepted into the multimillion-dollar program. The department says the program provides local law enforcement authorities with "intensive technical assistance."
Cities receiving funds include Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston.
The suit was brought by the city of Chicago over Justice Department grants, but not specifically the Public Safety Partnership program.
The judges blocked the enforcement of certain grant conditions, such as one requiring cities to provide at least 48 hours notice to the Department of Homeland Security before releasing a suspect wanted on immigration violations.
Van Hollen told Sessions at the hearing that "I think those decisions are going to apply also to your criteria in the National Public Safety Partnership program."