Sessions, city’s police boss clash on people in country illegally
PHILADELPHIA — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday again singled out Philadelphia as an increasingly violent city made more dangerous by people living in the country illegally.
In an address to federal prosecutors, Sessions pleaded with local law enforcement to “reconsider carefully the harm they are doing to their residents” through policies he said “are giving sanctuary not to law-abiding citizens in our communities but to criminals.”
“If we’re going to stop the rise of violent crime, let’s work together,” Sessions said, adding that if people who come to America illegally “commit a crime while they’re in here, my goodness, what right do they have to demand that they not be deported?”
Sessions spoke to federal prosecutors and local law enforcement officials for about 20 minutes, addressing violent crime, immigration and the opioid crisis.
In a letter to the Justice Department last month, Philadelphia officials said the city is adhering to the law, even while refusing to collect information on residents’ immigration status. According to the city’s policy on the matter, the prison system “only responds to detainer requests to turn over a detainee to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the agency has a judicial, criminal warrant.”
Philadelphia is among several cities nationwide that have vowed to maintain their “sanctuary city” status. Police Commissioner Richard Ross — who was present for Sessions’ remarks and met briefly with the attorney general before his address — said he does not think local law enforcement “belongs in the immigration business.”
“As it relates to violent crime, our problems are not people from other countries,” Ross said. “Our problem is the young men here who are hopeless about a lot of things.”
Ross referred to Philadelphia instead as a “welcoming city” and said Sessions’ approach could have a chilling effect on efforts to encourage immigrants to report crimes.
President Donald Trump has tried to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. A federal judge last week said he’s not likely to reinstate Trump’s executive order to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities.
Sessions’ trip came on the heels of a New York Times interview published this week in which the president expressed frustration with Sessions for recusing himself from the FBI probe into Russian election tampering. Sessions did not take questions from reporters after making his remarks.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the U.S. attorney’s office on Friday in Philadelphia. In his address to federal prosecutors, he singled out the city for its sanctuary policies on immigration.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross departs after speaking with members of the media and listening to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech Friday in Philadelphia.