U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions escalated his rhetoric against sanctuary cities last week, making remarks and citing studies in attempt to argue that policies protective of illegal immigrants encourage crime.
Even before assuming his present posting, Sessions was an active critic of so-called ‘sanctuary city’ policies.
Sanctuary cities, including the likes of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, actively discourage law enforcement officials form inquiring about the immigration status of individuals they encounter in the line of duty. While proponents of the practice say that allowing illegal immigrants to report crimes without having to fear deportation makes for safer communities, its critics propose the opposite.
“Some jurisdictions in this country refuse to cooperate with the federal government when it comes to immigration authorities to turn over illegal aliens who commit crimes, even MS-13 members,” said Sessions on Friday. “These policies are often called sanctuary policies, but they are giving sanctuary not to law-abiding citizens of our communities, they are providing sanctuary to criminals.”
According to Politico, Sessions’ statements Friday marked the first time the former congressman used his position as attorney general to take a hard stance on sanctuary cities.
“It saddens me to say one of these jurisdictions is Philadelphia,” said Sessions, targeting Pennsylvania’s largest city with pro-immigration policies in effect. “This is especially sad for the residents of Philadelphia who have been victimized as a result of these policies.”
Continuing on, Sessions claimed that sanctuary cities are unpopular with Philadelphia police officers and politicians alike.
“Local police I know are totally supportive and want to work together on so many of these issues and I know you want to help. The problem are [sic] the policies that tie your hands and that makes all citizens, especially the police on the streets, less safe,” he said. “I urge the City of Philadelphia and every sanctuary city to reconsider the harm they are doing to their residents.”
While Sessions may only have urged, the Trump Administration has outright threatened self-designated sanctuary cities with cuts to federal healthcare grants and infrastructure aid.
Despite the fear-mongering and references to political support, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney questioned Session’ sense.
“The very same year that I reinstated Philadelphia’s so-called sanctuary policy, the city experienced its lowest crime rate in 40 years. The Trump administration is threatening to reverse that progress. If victims and witnesses of crimes don’t report those crimes to the police because they fear deportation, that allows the real bad guys to stay on the streets,” Kenney said.
“Blaming an entire group of people for our country’s problems and violating their right to due process isn’t constitutional and it isn’t American. Philadelphia treats immigrants as we would any other resident under our criminal justice system,” he said.
Some of Sessions earlier comments fell on the ears of researchers, whose studies he cited when posited a link between crime and sanctuary policies.
“When cities like Philadelphia, Boston, or San Francisco advertise that they have these policies, criminals take notice,” said the Attorney General in Las Vegas. “According to a recent study from the University of California – Riverside, cities with these policies have more violent crime on average than those that don’t.”
However, the authors of the Riverside report Sessions was citing said the federal prosecutor misinterpreted their results.
“We find no statistical discernible difference in violent crime rate, rape, or property crimes across the cities. Our findings provide evidence that sanctuary policies have no effect on crime rates, despite narratives to the contrary,” read the study’s conclusion.
Sessions had, per a Politifact analysis, drawn his data from a single graph he’d taken out of context.
His comments come after months of harsh anti-immigration, led primarily by President Donald Trump.
The commander-in-chief has continuously bemoaned the hypothetical ill-effects of sanctuary cities since his candidacy in 2016, frequently inviting individuals who had been victimized by illegal immigrants to speak at his campaign rallies.
Trump recently elaborated on a plan to outfit a proposed ‘border wall’ lined with ‘beautiful’ solar panels to keep unauthorized immigrants from Latin America out of the United States.