Appearing in Miami-Dade, earlier today U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks about sanctuary cities and the Department of Justice intentions to hold them to account for violations of immigration law.
[Transcript] Thank you Tom, for that introduction. I have great respect for the work you are doing. We have many members of your team here and I want to thank each and every one of you. Thank you. And thank you to all the law enforcement personnel I see out here.
Mayor Carlos Giménez, thank you for your tremendous hospitality and thank you for your commitment to the rule of law and tireless work to keep the people of Miami-Dade safe.
I also want to recognize our acting United States Attorney Ben Greenberg. Your team here has done a fabulous job.
I’m honored to be in Miami-Dade with all of you today. I’m always so impressed when I visit: the city keeps getting bigger, business is booming, and I recently read that Miami-Dade is one of the safest major jurisdictions in the country.
As you know, this was not always the case. In the 1980s, Miami-Dade was plagued by drugs. Violent crime followed. Police regularly recorded upwards of 500 murders a year. The city seemed to be crumbling.
But the people of Miami-Dade refused to tolerate this level of violence. And last year, Miami-Dade’s homicide count was barely a third of what it was in the 1980s.
How many hundreds of lives were saved in this city because of the proactive, community policing from your police force. It wasn’t easy, but this place has truly earned its nickname today “The Magic City”.
Your success is even more remarkable since violent crime is surging in most places across the country – including a historic rise in the nation’s murder rate of nearly 11 percent.
Miami-Dade is an example of what is possible through hard work, professional policing, and a rededication to the rule of law.
It is proof that the entire nation can do better.
During the last administration, the Inspector General sent 10 letters to jurisdictions that they had reason to believe were not complying with federal immigration law. Last week, we sent a letter to your mayor and today I’m here to announce that Miami-Dade is now in full compliance and eligible for federal law enforcement grant dollars.
This is wonderful news for law enforcement and the citizens of Miami-Dade. It means more money for crime fighting. And it means we are partners in keeping everyone here safe.
Unfortunately, some cities – like Chicago – refuse to follow your example.
In Chicago – a city with almost exactly the same 2.7 million person population as Miami-Dade – more than 433 people have been murdered since the beginning of the year. More than three times as many as Miami-Dade.
Last year, Chicago’s 2.7 million residents experienced more murders than the 12.5 million people who live in New York and Los Angeles – combined. The Chicago Police Department also reported more than 4,300 shooting victims. In the first half of last year, violent crime across the nation increased 5 percent, but in Chicago it surged 24 percent.
The most fundamental duty of government is to ensure the safety and liberty of its people.
Respect for the rule of law has broken down. In Chicago, their so-called “sanctuary” policies are just one sad example.
Every year too many Americans lives are victimized as a result of sanctuary city policies whether it be theft, robbery, drugs, assault, battery, and even murder.
Here’s how it works right now. After the police arrest an illegal alien and charge him with a crime, they fingerprint and book him into their jail.
When federal immigration authorities learn that this criminal alien is in Chicago’s custody, they can issue an arrest warrant and ask the city to either notify them before the criminal is released or to transfer him to federal custody.
But Chicago’s leaders have made this a political issue and direct their police to refuse both requests.
Instead, the police are forced to release the criminal alien back into the community without regard to the seriousness of the crime or how long the rap sheet.
This is a serious problem for the people of Chicago. A few years ago, an alien was arrested and had his license revoked for driving under the influence. Shortly after, he was arrested again for driving with a suspended license.
After Cook County ignored ICE’s detainer request, the alien drove under the influence once again just a few months later and this time struck and killed a skateboarder. Another senseless death caused by a dangerous policy.
Tragically, in another case, an illegal alien was convicted of aggravated domestic battery. ICE lodged an immigration detainer, but again, the county did not honor it.
After his release, that same alien murdered a 15-year-old girl and shot her mother. She was only 15 and she could be alive today if Chicago’s leadership had prioritized her safety over politics.
Sadly, we know Chicago isn’t alone. Just three weeks ago, Sergio Jose Martinez was arrested in Portland, Oregon. Martinez is an illegal alien who has been deported at least 20 times, and police reports show that he was arrested at least 10 times just this year– accused of everything from possessing drugs to stealing a car.
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.
According to allegations, Martinez then broke into the home of a 65-year-old Portland woman by crawling through her bedroom window. Once inside, he reportedly forced this woman to the ground, used scarves and socks to blindfold, bind, and gag her, and then raped her and slammed her head into the wooden floor.
How can these politicians hear this story and do nothing?
How can they look her in the eye and tell her they did nothing to stop this from happening? This is not an aberration. It’s too common.
These policies of sanctuary cities do far broader damage to the country than many understand. At its root, it is a rejection of our immigration laws and a declaration of open borders.
It says if you enter the country last week with a criminal record and get to Chicago, we will not even support deporting you even after you commit a serious crime against one of our citizens. This is lawlessness.
And these lawless policies do more than shield individual criminal aliens – they also shelter and protect lethal gangs and transnational criminal organizations like Latin Kings and MS-13.
These predators thrive when crime is not met with consequences. This state of lawlessness allows gangs to smuggle guns, drugs, and even humans, across borders and around cities and communities. Sanctuary jurisdictions provide safe harbor for some of the most dangerous criminals in our country.
That makes a sanctuary city a trafficker, smuggler, or predator’s best friend.
Now, I want to be clear about something: local police are not the problem. They risk their lives each day in service of the law and the people they protect.
The problem is these sanctuary jurisdictions tie our police officers’ hands and endanger federal immigration officers as well when they are forced to pursue these criminal aliens outside of the jails and prisons.
Yet, these sanctuary jurisdictions have the gall to feign outrage when their police departments lose federal funds as a direct result of their malfeasance.
We want to do everything we can to help state and local law enforcement, which is why we have federal grants to cities designed to aid in crime reduction.
But we cannot continue giving federal taxpayer money to cities that actively undermine the safety and efficacy of federal law enforcement and actively frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their cities.
So if voters in Chicago are concerned about losing federal grant money: call your mayor.
The city’s leaders have even gone so far as to claim that these “sanctuary” policies help reduce crime by encouraging illegal aliens to report it when it happens. But no evidence supports this claim.
To the contrary, Chicago has consistently had one of the lowest murder investigation clearance rates in the country.
Only in one out of every four murders is a suspect even identified.
Far from making Chicago safer, these policies likely make cooperation with law enforcement more difficult: if there are no real consequences for the criminal, no witness will risk their life to report the crime. That means criminals walk free and victims suffer in silence.
And what does it say to the most vulnerable communities when even the police are unable to help keep repeat violent offenders off their streets?
Rather than acknowledge soaring murder counts or the heartbreaking stories told by victims’ families, Chicago’s mayor has chosen to sue the federal government.
He complains that our focus on enforcing the law would require a “reordering of law enforcement practice in [the city].”
But that’s exactly the point! For the sake of their city, Chicago’s leaders need to recommit to policies that punish criminals instead of protecting them. They need to protect their citizens and not the criminals.
Americans – all Americans – have a right to full and equal protection under law.
No one understands this better than the Cuban-Americans here in Miami-Dade.
When they came to America, they saw firsthand that only the rule of law and the equal application of that law can preserve our God-given rights.
They understand that no single person – whether a dictator or a mayor – should determine whose rights are protected and whose are not.
The people of Miami-Dade know that the rule of law guarantees equality and opportunity.
Protecting this guarantee is why the government of Miami-Dade made its decision to work with federal law enforcement, not against us.
And that is critical because it shows that this jurisdiction is serious about protecting its citizens from danger and its law enforcement officers from unnecessary risk.
In fact, the majority of the country believes that all cities should do the same. According to one poll, 80 percent of Americans believe that cities should turn over criminal illegal aliens to immigration officials.
Leaders in jurisdictions like Miami-Dade, Lansing, and Westchester County, New York, believe it too, which is why they have stood up for the people they serve by choosing the rule of law.
So to all “sanctuary” jurisdictions across the country, I say this: Miami-Dade is doing it, and so can you. Work with us to enforce a lawful immigration system that keeps us safe and serves our national interest.
The Department of Justice will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness or crime.
Nor will we tolerate the loss of innocent life because a handful of jurisdictions believe that they are above the law.
I know that Miami-Dade will be an example of the good that comes from following the law.
We have already seen that: 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.
I hope more jurisdictions follow Miami-Dade’s leadership by choosing to follow the law, because we all want to do the same thing: protect our families and defend our country.
So thank you, Miami-Dade.
And to all the law enforcement here—state, local, and federal—I look forward to working with you to do just that. This Department of Justice has your back and you have our thanks.
Thank you, and God bless you. (transcript link)