U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a visit to Miami to wag his finger at sanctuary cities that have refused to hold people in jail for federal immigration officials.
Giving a handful of examples of illegal immigrants who repeatedly committed crimes, Sessions chastised Chicago and other cities for “undermining” the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“This is lawlessness,” Sessions said. “It makes no sense as a matter of policy. It’s not moral or legal.”
In a speech to more than 100 police officers, Sessions thanked Miami-Dade County for declining to be a sanctuary jurisdiction. Miami-Dade County’s corrections system is the eighth-largest in the country, housing nearly 4,500 people daily, according to the department’s website.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who sat in the front row, announced in January that county jails would detain those sought by federal immigration officials. The decision came in response to President Donald Trump’s threat to revoke funding from so-called sanctuaries.
Protests followed, and a Miami-Dade Circuit judge ruled the policy unconstitutional in March, saying federal officials may not reduce local corrections departments to “mere satrapies of a central government of unlimited and illimitable power.” The county’s director of corrections has appealed the ruling.
In his speech, Sessions said community policing has helped reduce Miami’s homicide count since the 1980s. The county’s agreement to assist ICE will further protect Miami-Dade residents, he said.
“It means more money for crime-fighting,” Sessions said. “It means we’re partners, partners together, in keeping everyone safe. Unfortunately, we have areas of the country that are not doing so well. Chicago, which just sued us a couple days ago, is not following this example.”
Sessions said Chicago’s politicians have tied officers’ hands each time someone is booked into jail whom ICE suspects of being in the country illegally.
“Police are forced to release the criminal alien back into the community,” he said.
ICE’s acting director, Tom Homan, who spoke before Sessions, said crimes committed by illegal immigrants are preventable.
“Make no mistake, sanctuary jurisdictions pose a threat to the American people,” he said.
Sessions’ speech came during a national conversation about racism following last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hours before his speech, the University of Florida denied a white nationalist’s request for his group to rent space for a campus event.
Citing Trump’s response to Charlottesville, the county and state Democratic Party and several other local groups organized a protest outside Sessions’ speech to denounce the Trump administration’s “anti-immigrant, anti-American policies.”
Lorella Praeli, the American Civil Liberties Union’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, said the detainer policy Sessions advocated violates constitutional rights.
“Sanctuary city policies improve public safety, protect immigrants, and promote trust between communities and police,” she said in a statement. “Instead of protecting Floridians, Mayor Carlos Gimenez turned his back on the community and Miami-Dade County became an extension of Trump’s mass deportation force.”