Most cities, counties, and states in this country cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When they’re about to release someone in criminal custody who is wanted for deportation, they let ICE know.
But Philadelphia calls itself a ‘sanctuary city’ because it refuses to do this. Philadelphia is not giving “sanctuary” to Americans — it’s giving sanctuary to foreign criminals.
At their root, sanctuary policies are a rejection of immigration law. If you won’t deport somebody who came here illegally and then committed another crime, then whom will you deport? Nobody.
It cannot be that someone who illegally crosses the border and two days later arrives in Sacramento, Louisville, or Philadelphia is home free — never to be removed. In essence, that is open borders.
Our immigration laws are not suggestions. They are the duly enacted laws passed by our representatives in Congress on a bipartisan basis. If you want to change the laws, then you should do so in the legal, constitutional fashion of working through Congress — not by attempting to obstruct them or nullify them. Actively resisting the enforcement of our federal laws is an insult to the American voter.
Under the Constitution, federal law is the “supreme law of the land.” But if a state or a city enacts a law that prevents federal law from being enforced, then it is no longer supreme. That makes these state and local laws clearly unconstitutional.
And on a more fundamental level, intentionally keeping criminal aliens in the community is an insult to those who have suffered from their crimes.
And there are many.
One illegal alien from Gambia allegedly shoved his girlfriend into a hot oven during an argument. He was arrested by Philadelphia police, and ICE requested that he be handed over for removal proceedings. That request was denied.
In 2013, Mexican national Jose Palermos pled guilty to sexually exploiting a 7-year-old girl. He was required to register as a sex offender, but when ICE requested that he be turned over for deportation, the request was denied.
Our incredible ICE agents eventually tracked down these men. But they shouldn’t have had to.
Several months ago in Santa Clara, Calif. — another “sanctuary city” — a prosecutor was guided by county leadership to seek a lesser charge for a man accused of assaulting his wife so that the man would receive a lesser sentence and wouldn’t have to be deported. In other words, this man received preferential treatment because he is deportable. Had he been an American, he would have received harsher punishment. That should be offensive to every American.
Any crimes committed by an illegal alien are by definition preventable. They should never have happened because the criminal should never have been in this country in the first place.
“Sanctuary” cities send a message to criminal aliens: Stay here and you won’t get caught. That directly attracts more criminal aliens. And they send a message to all illegal aliens: If you commit a crime here, then you won’t be deported.
“Sanctuary” policies are wrong legally, logically, and morally.
That’s why under President Trump, the Department of Justice is taking action to end them.
In March, the Department of Justice sued the State of California over its sanctuary laws. I am confident that we are going to win this case.
We have also supported the State of Texas in its efforts to ban sanctuary cities.
Since I became attorney general, we have filed briefs in defense of state or local law enforcement who cooperate with ICE in about 30 cases. A number of courts in these cases have ruled in our favor.
We are also channeling our law enforcement grant funding to the majority of cities, towns, and counties that cooperate with federal law enforcement. Unsurprisingly, sanctuary cities like Philadelphia and Chicago have sued us for doing this, but we are fighting in court.
And we’re going to keep fighting. Our goal is to reduce and ultimately to end illegal immigration. Whether you think we should have a lot of immigration or only a little, we should all agree that there should be zero illegal immigration.
But to achieve that goal, ultimately, Congress must act.
Four out of five Americans oppose sanctuary policies — Congress should listen to them. So should Philadelphia’s political leaders.
Jeff Sessions is the attorney general of the United States.