Ses­sions, city’s po­lice boss clash on peo­ple in coun­try il­le­gally

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - ERRIN HAINES WHACK

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.

AP/MATT ROURKE

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.

AP/MATT ROURKE

Philadel­phia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross de­parts af­ter speak­ing with mem­bers of the me­dia and lis­ten­ing to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions’ speech Fri­day in Philadel­phia.

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