Jeff Sessions: Sanctuary policies 'a trafficker, smuggler, or gang member's best friend'

by Kelly Cohen | Sep 19, 2017, 5:49 PM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued his full-court press against cities that adopt so-called sanctuary policies on Tuesday — even though a federal judge ruled last week that his latest effort to do so is unconstitutional.

"These [sanctuary] policies do far greater damage than many understand," Sessions said during a speech in Portland, Ore. "This state of lawlessness allows gangs to smuggle guns, drugs, and even humans across borders and around cities and communities. That makes a sanctuary city a trafficker, smuggler, or gang member's best friend."

Sessions' speech in Portland — whose city council in March officially declared itself a sanctuary city — was not met warmly.

The attorney general was peppered with expletives from roughly 200 gathered protesters as he arrived at and left the venue of his speech, Portland's field office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

pdx law grrrl‏
People are gathering in Portland to protest Jeff Sessions being in town today to talk with law enforcement officials.

11:20 AM - 19 Sep 2017

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also wrote Sessions a stern letter condemning the attorney general's efforts to "coerce local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws." Wheeler, who called Sessions' sanctuary policy stance "wrongheaded" in March, did not meet with him during the trip.

During his speech Tuesday, Sessions referenced numerous high-profile cases connecting violent crime to sanctuary policies.

The cases were that of 17-year-old Jose Morales, who was killed in what was believed to be a gang-related shooting in July, and 17-year-old Shawn Scott Jr., who was killed in an April robbery.

Sessions also named Sergio Martinez, an illegal immigrant who had been deported 20 times before his last arrest in July for sexual assault.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement had put out an immigration detainer against Martinez, asking Portland authorities to notify them before releasing him. However, authorities did not and released him in December 2016.

"Such policies undermine the moral authority of law and undermine the safety of the jurisdictions that adopt them," Sessions said Tuesday. "Federal immigration authorities properly lodged a detainer against Martinez just a few months before, asking to be notified when he was set to be released. But authorities in Oregon refused."

In July, Sessions announced the Trump administration's latest crackdown on sanctuary policies: Let ICE agents into prisons and jails or lose large amounts of federal grant money.

"Some [cities], including Portland, have even decided to sue this administration so that they can keep receiving taxpayer-funded grants while continuing to impede federal immigration enforcement," Sessions continued. "These grants are not an entitlement. We strive to help state and local law enforcement. But we cannot continue giving such federal grants to cities that actively undermine the safety of federal law officers and actively frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities."

In April, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to join Seattle in suing the Trump administration's sanctuary city conditions. That lawsuit was against President Trump's executive order also attempting to strip sanctuary jurisdictions of federal money.

That executive order was temporarily blocked by a federal judge, and last week, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of the city of Chicago in its request for a preliminary injunction against Session's July conditions for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants.