Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a strong reaction to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s plans to crack down on sanctuary cities.
Emanuel announced the filing of the suit on Monday, complaining about a new Justice Department policy which would cut off grants to police departments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Sessions responded by stating that record numbers of murders in Chicago in recent years were attributable at least in part to Emanuel’s decision to stick with a sanctuary policy that encourages police to ignore the immigration status of criminals.
“No amount of federal taxpayer dollars will help a city that refuses to help its own residents,” Sessions said. “To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system.”
The attorney general’s statement accused Chicago officials of promoting “an official policy of protecting criminal aliens.” President Trump has expressed the same sentiments, accusing Chicago of being too lax in its response to the surge in violence there.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson disagrees with the attorney general’s portrayal.
“Undocumented immigrants are not driving violence in Chicago, and that’s why I want our officers focused on community policing and not trying to be the immigration police,” he said, adding that “the federal government’s plans will hamper community policing and public safety.”
“This is astounding given the unprecedented violent crime surge in Chicago, with the number of murders in 2016 surpassing both New York and Los Angeles combined,” Sessions said. “The city’s leaders cannot follow some laws and ignore others and reasonably expect this horrific situation to improve.”
Sessions added, “This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety. So, it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forgo taxpayer dollars.”
The new lawsuit, on the other hand, argues that it’s the Justice Department that isn’t complying with the law, saying that local governments are not obligated to actively assist immigration officers or to notify them when illegal immigrants are released from jail.
The Trump administration is trying to add such requirements to certain law-enforcement grants issued in the future, but Chicago’s suit contends that Justice Department officials lack the authority to add anti-sanctuary-city requirements beyond a single provision barring grant recipients from policies that punish officers for contacting federal officials about a suspected undocumented immigrant.
Cities in California and Massachusetts have filed similar legal challenges to an early Trump executive order that many saw as threatening a broad crackdown on sanctuary cities. Emanuel and many law enforcement leaders say that the policies benefit public safety by encouraging undocumented immigrants to cooperate and communicate with police.
“Chicago is a welcoming city and always will be, and we will not be blackmailed by President Trump’s Justice Department,” Emanuel said as he announced the suit. “Forcing us to choose between our values and our police department’s philosophy of community policing is a false choice, and it is a choice that would ultimately undermine our public safety agenda.”
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