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Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to Miami to deliver another speech that made clear that the Trump Administration is more interested in targeting immigrants for deportation than in protecting the public from crime.
As is his custom, Sessions used the speech in Miami to attack Chicago and other cities that place a higher priority on targeting criminals than on targeting immigrants, and do so by limiting the involvement of local law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement. Here are five key points to in bear in mind about the effects of the Trump-Sessions campaign against local autonomy:
Miami-Dade’s Mayor Giménez caved to the Trump Administration: Why did AG Sessions choose Miami? Earlier this year, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez caved to Trump Administration threats and subsequently directed Miami-Dade county jails to hold undocumented immigrants detained for non-immigration reasons for pickup by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The increased cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement will inevitably chill crime reporting in the majority immigrant city. Immigrants, even those here legally, don’t want to involve police if it means someone in their circle might end up getting turned over to ICE.
Cities that prioritize safety over deportation are safer: So-called “sanctuary cities” are safer according to a study by Tom Wong, political scientist at the University of California-San Diego. In a paper published with the Center of American Progress, Professor Wong examined local crime rates and concluded, “Crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties” (full report here). Similarly, Betsy Woodruff wrote in a recent Daily Beast assessment, “Biggest Murder Spikes Not in Sanctuary Cities,” that “…a new analysis of preliminary data shows that in 2016, murder rates went up dramatically in many cities that cooperate with the feds on immigration. Immigration advocates say this means the attorney general is overstating the impact of ending “sanctuary city” policies as a way to fight violent crime.”
The Trump focus on deportations undermines public safety: In Los Angeles, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck reported that his department has seen a dramatic drop-off in reports of both domestic violence and sexual abuse due to the fears of the immigrant community of increased collaboration between the justice system and immigration enforcement agents. In Houston, the police department blamed fear of immigration enforcement for a dramatic decrease in the number of Latinos reporting violent crimes, including rape, compared to last year. As Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said, “We should all be concerned. A person that rapes or violently attacks or robs an undocumented immigrant is somebody that is going to harm a natural born citizen or lawful resident.” In Denver, city attorney Kristin Bronson reported that she had to drop multiple domestic violence cases due to undocumented women refusing to serve as witnesses due to fears over immigration enforcement at courthouses.
The Trump-Sessions attack is an effort to undermine local autonomy and community policing: The attacks on Chicago came after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city of Chicago would file suit over DOJ funding threats. In cities like Chicago, and in states like California and Illinois – where the California Values Act and the Illinois Trust Act are moving closer to enactment – pro-immigrant policies are being put in place so that immigrant communities work with police to take criminals off the streets. Trump and Sessions want local police to collude with federal deportation agents in order to take hardworking immigrants off the streets.
Reminders that this is about deporting immigrants not reducing crime: To bolster their bullying, Trump and Sessions are doing everything they can to figure out how to punish local autonomy by revoking and withholding grants for law enforcement. ThinkProgress recapped: “It is … punitive to take money away from police departments in cities that have chosen to build trust with their residents. With $3.6 billion in federal funds at stake in Chicago, threats to take away funding from police departments that are already facing budget shortfalls could affect the backlog of DNA evidence tests collected from horrific crimes like sexual assaults and homicides. Chicago’s police department would also risk losing $9.6 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which promotes public safety efforts and crime reduction. Backlogs are already an issue in Chicago police, where police have failed to show up to more than 11,000 court dates since 2010 and are not punished for failing to report in court, which contributes to pretrial delay.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
The Trump Administration is expert at throwing sand in our faces to obscure the real effects of their policies. They talk up public safety, but their efforts to bully local jurisdictions into turbocharging their deportation agenda actually undermine public safety. They talk about targeting ‘bad hombres’ when in practice they are targeting hardworking immigrants with no records. They talk about lawlessness when their own obsession with deporting immigrants aids and abets lawlessness. It’s time for us to look past the rhetoric and evaluate the reality. Trump and Sessions want to drive millions of immigrants out of the country, and they are prepared to sacrifice the public safety of immigrant-rich jurisdictions to do it.