MIAMI -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed Wednesday to continue fighting cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities until local governments follow Miami-Dade County's example and reverse policies.
Sessions aimed much of his frustration at Chicago, which last week sued President Donald Trump's administration for denying federal grant money to cities that don't share information with immigration officials.
"This state of lawlessness allows gangs to smuggle guns, drugs, and even humans, across borders and around cities and communities. Sanctuary jurisdictions provide safe harbor for some of the most dangerous criminals in our country," Sessions said at an event in the Port of Miami.
Sessions applauded Miami-Dade's decision to comply with Trump's immigration orders by ordering county officials earlier this year to hold people in jail for extra time if immigration authorities requested them. County mayor Carlos Gimenez reversed a 2013 policy that refused such requests unless the federal government committed to pay for jail costs. In justifying the decision, the Republican mayor said he didn't want to risk losing federal funding.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement on Session's comments, saying, "In a week in which the Trump administration is being forced to answer questions about neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK, they could not have picked a worse time to resume their attack on the immigrants who see America as a beacon of hope. Chicago will continue to stand up proudly as a welcoming city, and we will not cave to the Trump administration's pressure because they are wrong morally, wrong factually and wrong legally."
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also released a statement, saying, "I have been a police officer for more than 30 years and the federal government's plans will hamper community policing and undermine the work our men and women have done to reduce shootings by 16% so far this year. I have said it before and I will say it again, undocumented immigrants are not driving violence in Chicago and that's why I want our officers focused on community policing and not trying to be the immigration police."
There is no evidence that Chicago's violence is being fueled by immigration, and sanctuary city proponents say the police actually fosters more cooperation between communities and police.
"Strong families is what makes a safer community and we need to invest in that and not trying to separate our families," said Pastor Emma Lozano, Lincoln United Methodist Church.
As the city's lawsuit against the Justice Department winds its way through the courts, other sanctuary cities have also filed suit. The amount of funding in question is relatively small - about $2 million - but the city is concerned more money could be whithheld.
Sessions contrasted Miami-Dade and Chicago's crime statistics and accused the Midwestern city of failing to solve many of its slayings.
"Respect for the rule of law has broken down. In Chicago, their so-called 'sanctuary' policies are one sad example," he said.
While Sessions called Miami-Dade a "good" example of a city in compliance, when compared to 2016 numbers, the county's police department has reported a 3 percent increase in violent crime, including 17 percent more homicides between January and early August.
WLS-TV contributed to this report.
Sessions blasts Chicago and sanctuary cities, calls Miami 'good' example