Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tells Citizens of ‘Sanctuary Cities’ to Call Their Mayors, Get Policies Changed

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in the Miami area on Wednesday about jurisdictions that have cooperated with federal authorities on immigration enforcement, calling for more cities to end their "sanctuary" protections for undocumented immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in Miami on Aug. 16, 2017. (Credit: CNN)

The event, alongside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tom Homan, started shortly after noon PT at PortMiami.

Sessions had planned to praise Miami-Dade for dropping its "sanctuary" policy, the Miami Herald reported. The city reversed its 2013 "sanctuary" policy after President Donald Trump issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to withhold funds from jurisdictions that fail to comply with detention requests, according to the newspaper.

After Santa Clara County sued, that executive order was halted by an April ruling from a federal district court judge in San Francisco. The Trump administration vowed to appeal, but in May Sessions said in a memo that the Justice Department would narrow the scope of the broad language in Trump's order.

In the memo, Sessions narrowed the definition of “sanctuary jurisdiction" to localities that “willfully refuse to comply” with federal law requiring local jurisdictions to communicate citizenship status information with the federal government, CNN reported. The memo also clarified that only grants from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security were at stake.

In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation – along largely partisan lines – that would stop many federal grants from going to cities with "sanctuary" policies. The bill was sent to the Senate in July, and no action on the legislation has occurred since then.

Then, earlier this month, four cities, including two in California, received renewed threats from Sessions. But all four cities said they do not operate jails and cannot turn over inmates to federal immigration authorities.

The state of California on Monday said it would sue over the administration's threats.

On Wednesday, Sessions reiterated his past statements about sanctuary cities, contrasting them to Miami.

“We cannot continue giving taxpayer money to cities that actively undermine the safety and efficacy of federal law enforcement,” Sessions said.

Anyone concerned about the possible loss of federal funds should contact their city councils and local mayors, not him, he said.

"To all sanctuary jurisdictions across the country, I say: Miami-Dade is doing it, other cities are doing it. So can you. Work with us," the attorney general said.

He said Miami-Dade is an example of "the good that comes from following the law," comparing the high homicide rate in Chicago to that of the Florida metropolis over the Fourth of July weekend.

Sessions didn't provide evidence of a connection between "sanctuary" policies and crime rates.