Wall Street Journal
By Aruna Viswanatha and Shibani Mahtani
April 11, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged cities and police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities on Tuesday, highlighting the divide between the Trump administration and some police chiefs over the role of local agencies in immigration enforcement.
“Some mayors and city councils, and even a police chief and a sheriff here and there, are refusing to work with the federal government, choosing instead to protect the criminal aliens who harm public safety. Today, I urge them to work with us,” Mr. Sessions said in a speech before a gathering of police chiefs in Arizona, according to the text of his prepared remarks.
Last month, the Trump administration said it would withhold federal criminal-justice grants from cities that thwart cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, but it hasn’t yet publicly revoked grants over such concerns.
Police chiefs in some major cities have balked at requests to aid federal officials in enforcing immigration law, saying to do so would make it difficult for illegal immigrants in their cities to report crimes as witnesses or victims.
Last week, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo reported a drop in Latinos reporting violent crimes to the police.
“What I’m seeing with this data and what we’re starting to see is because the rhetoric and potentially because of the tactics being used as we enforce our laws—and yes, we need to enforce our laws including immigration laws…is that we may be losing the hearts and minds of 11 to 15 million people, the vast majority but for their immigration status are productive members of society,” Chief Acevedo said.
Houston police saw a 43% drop in Hispanics reporting rapes in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the first quarter of 2016. They also saw a 13% decrease in Hispanics reporting violent crime. At the same time, both of those measures increased for non-Hispanics, Chief Acevedo said.
“We are not here as [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents, we’re not interested in being ICE agents,” he said.
Last month, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he believes a 25% decline in rape reports among Hispanic populations in L.A. could be traced to deportation fears. Police there don’t inquire about immigration status and only alert federal officials to illegal immigrants held for serious crimes.
California lawmakers are considering making it a “sanctuary state” through a bill that would restrict some information-sharing and cooperation between local law enforcement and the federal government.
Mr. Sessions said the Justice Department is “ready to provide more resources” to communities that cooperate.
“For the sake of your communities, families and children, work with us, so we can restore a lawful system of immigration and make our country a safer place,” he said in his prepared remarks.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Sessions unveiled a memo directing federal prosecutors to pursue harsher charges against undocumented immigrants who commit crimes or repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally.
Tom Manger, who serves as the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and chief of police in Montgomery County, Md., said police chiefs already must fight against fears in immigrant neighborhoods that reporting a crime could get someone deported. He has urged those in the federal government to focus on the “real bad actors” rather than those accused only of an immigration violation.
—Zusha Elinson contributed to this article.
Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com and Shibani Mahtani at email@example.com
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