New York Times
By Rebecca R. Ruiz
August 16, 2017
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions hailed local authorities in Miami on Wednesday for falling in line with federal immigration efforts but denounced Chicago and other so-called sanctuary cities that have escalated their rejection of Trump administration enforcement policies.
“The leaders in Chicago have made this a political issue,” Mr. Sessions said in a speech in the Port of Miami. He contrasted Chicago’s defiance with Miami-Dade County’s recent cooperation, formally recognized by the Justice Department this month.
“Respect for the rule of law has broken down. In Chicago, I suggest the so-called sanctuary polices are one sad example of that,” he said.
Sanctuary cities’ policies vary, but they generally limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, arguing that close collaboration could undercut local law enforcement efforts. President Trump demanded in January that local authorities fully cooperate or risk losing federal grant money.
Miami-Dade’s mayor, Carlos Giménez, has directed county jails to detain undocumented immigrants who were arrested on unrelated charges, giving federal agents a two-day window to retrieve them and possibly begin deportation proceedings.
Mr. Sessions tied violence in Chicago to its government’s refusal to follow Miami’s example.
“The same Independence Day weekend when Chicago suffered more than 100 shootings and 15 homicides, Miami-Dade also had a historic number of shooting deaths: Zero,” he said.
Mr. Sessions’ remarks came just over a week after Chicago sued the Justice Department for its plans to cut off federal grant money to sanctuary cities, which the attorney general and the president have described as havens for criminals.
“Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate,” Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, said in announcing the lawsuit.
Several other local and state governments, including San Francisco and California, filed similar complaints this month, arguing that the administration’s financial threat compromises public safety and violates the Constitution.
Until this month, Miami-Dade was considered a sanctuary jurisdiction by the Justice Department. But in an Aug. 4 letter, federal officials expressed satisfaction with the county’s policy, which was enacted days into Mr. Trump’s term and responded to the prospect of losing federal funding.
“Miami-Dade is now in full compliance,” Mr. Sessions said on Wednesday. “It means more money for crime fighting, and it means we are partners in keeping everyone here safe.” He criticized cities like Chicago for “the gall to feign outrage when their police departments lose federal funds as a direct result of their malfeasance.”
Officials in Clark County, Nevada, which encompasses Las Vegas and has been considered a sanctuary jurisdiction but similarly amended its policies, also received a letter this month certifying that it is not in jeopardy of losing grant money.
Mr. Giménez, a former Cuban refugee and a Republican who publicly supported Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election, has faced protests and local opposition over his choice to comply with the January order that demanded cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Some of that opposition was enlivened this week, leading up to Mr. Sessions’s visit, said to Michael Hernandez, Miami-Dade County’s senior communications director.
Mr. Giménez has maintained, however, that local police will not act as immigration officers and are to never inquire about a person’s immigration status. He has justified the county’s position by pointing to the necessity of the federal money that could otherwise be taken away.
The annual grant that the Justice Department has threatened amounts to some $260 million nationwide and more than $450,000 for Miami-Dade County. It has funded body cameras for the Miami-Dade police force in recent years, Mr. Hernandez said.
Over the past six months, since Mr. Giménez’s new directive took effect, Miami-Dade County has detained nearly 500 people at the direction of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, according to county data. As of early August, 185 had been taken into custody by federal authorities.
But even as Mr. Sessions pointed to Miami-Dade as an example of cooperation, Mr. Giménez’s request that the county be reimbursed for the cost of detaining people in local jails at the federal government’s behest was not addressed, at least publicly.
“Mayor Giménez believes it’s fair and appropriate for the federal government to reimburse Miami-Dade County’s corrections department for holding these individuals beyond the time that we can legally hold them,” Mr. Hernandez said.
He noted the mayor had discussed the issue with John F. Kelly, the president’s new chief of staff, when he was the secretary of homeland security. “Is it a demand? No. But it’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”
Officials in sanctuary cities such as Chicago, New York and Philadelphia have expressed opposition to the immigration enforcement policy that goes beyond the financial burden of complying with the president’s order.
Some have cited concern about detaining people without a criminal warrant. Others have called the Trump administration’s position counterintuitive, arguing that communities are safer when local authorities stay out of immigration matters and instead encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes or share information without fearing deportation.
“I don’t personally believe we belong in the immigration business,” Richard Ross Jr., Philadelphia’s police commissioner, said last month after Mr. Sessions had visited to press his agenda, including similarly trying to link Philadelphia’s sanctuary policies to crime. “We want every bit of assistance that we can get. If you don’t have the resources, you’re going to fall short.”
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