Dem rep: Pulling sanctuary city funds 'like playing Russian roulette'

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) accused the Trump administration Tuesday of gambling with American lives after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE threatened to pull grant money for law enforcement in so-called sanctuary cities.

"By yanking funding away and clawing back funding away from law enforcement, we're putting average Americans at risk," he said during an interview on CNN's "New Day." "In fact, it's almost like putting a gun to the head of Americans and playing Russian roulette."

"This is egregious, and this is something that should not happen," he said. "Our men and women of law enforcement should get all the help possible to defend us from any potential terrorist attack."

ADVERTISEMENT

Espaillat's comments came a day after Sessions announced that state and local governments seeking grants from the Justice Department must certify that they are not sanctuary cities, which in part refuse to comply with federal immigration detainers by turning undocumented immigrants over for deportation. 

The warning falls in line with President Trump's much-touted campaign promise to ramp up immigration enforcement and increase deportations of undocumented immigrants. Trump's rhetoric has often been directed at sanctuary cities, which he accuses of violating federal immigration laws.

But Espaillat, whose district includes part of New York City, said that sanctuary city status can be used as a crime-fighting tactic for local law enforcement officials by building trust between immigrant communities and police.

"This is actually a crime-fighting tool," he said. "I think we must insure that all people can come forward and report a crime, as opposed to being fearful and living in the shadows and really not cooperating with law enforcement at all."