Durbin slams Sessions for pulling funds from sanctuary cities

Durbin slams Sessions for pulling funds from sanctuary cities
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (D-Ill.) on Wednesday slammed Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE for withholding grant funds from so-called sanctuary cities if local law enforcement does not comply with federal immigration officials.

During testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Department of Justice oversight, Durbin and Sessions participated in a heated exchange over the grant money. Durbin, who represents Illinois, quoted the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, who argued undocumented immigrants are not the source of the city’s violence.

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The Illinois senator said that funding is needed for a gun monitoring system in the city that helps police instantly know when a gun is fired.

“You want to cut back these funds because you want the city of Chicago to play the role of immigration police on federal, civil laws,” Durbin told Sessions.

“Mr. Attorney General, you’re not helping us solve the murder problem in the city of Chicago by taking away these federal funds and the superintendent says that your pursuit of undocumented immigrants has little or nothing to do with gun violence in Chicago.”

But while Sessions said the murder rate in Chicago “is a cloud over the city,” and argued “good community-based policing” is vital, the head of the Justice Department pushed for the deportation of undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes.

“I think the politicians cannot say that if you remove a violent criminal from America that’s illegally in the country and he’s arrested by Chicago police and put in the Chicago jail, that once they’re released, they shouldn’t be turned over to the federal ICE officers so they can be removed from the country. They were here illegally to begin with, much less commit another crime,” Sessions said.

“How does that make the city of Chicago safer when you don’t remove criminals who are illegally in the country?” he added. 

But Durbin fired back and alluded to hypocrisy on the part of Sessions for praising local police but disregarding the head of the Chicago police department.

“Mr. Attorney General, you can’t give an opening statement throwing a bouquet to local police and then ignore what the superintendent of police in Chicago tells you has nothing to do with gun violence,” Durbin said.

“You want to cut off federal funds to that city and come here and criticize the murder rate.”

Sessions noted that he has increased the number of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to help the city prosecute gun crimes but said the federal government cannot overtake local law enforcement.

“When somebody’s arrested in the jail that’s due to be deported, we just simply ask that they call us so we can come by and pick them up if they need to be removed. That’s not happening and we got to work through it in some way,” Sessions said.

A federal judge last month blocked the new rules for the "sanctuary cities" after the city of Chicago sued the Trump administration over the new Justice Department requirements.