Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ office in Portland on Tuesday and criticized what he referred to as “so-called sanctuary policies.”
Portland and other Oregon cities adopted sanctuary city policies earlier this year.
The city of Portland then joined the city of Seattle in a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order threatening to strip federal funding from cities that refuse to assist the federal government with immigration enforcement.
On Tuesday, Sessions described violent crime increasing in Portland and across the nation. He cited sanctuary cities and the release of “criminal aliens” as factors.
“Whatever the crime rate is in a city, you can be sure it will be higher if these policies are followed,” Sessions said.
Sessions highlighted several cases of people in the country illegally committing violent crimes, including 31-year-old Sergio Jose Martinez who is facing charges of burglary, assault, kidnapping and sex abuse involving two victims inPortland in July
Court documents state Martinez has a long history of arrests and deportations.
Speaking to a room filled with law enforcement officers, Sessions said they are not the problem.
“The problem is the policies that tie your hands,” he said. “Sanctuary policies endanger us all.”
Sessions said such “lawless policies” shelter people smuggling guns, drugs and even humans into the U.S.
“That makes a sanctuary city a trafficker, smuggler, gang member’s best friend,” he said.
Sessions said the federal government cannot continue providing grants to cities that “actively undermine” the safety of the community and law enforcement officers.
“I urge Portland, this wonderful city, this wonderful state of Oregon, and any sanctuary jurisdiction to reconsider what’s happening,” he said.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a statement Tuesday saying he would not be meeting with Sessions, but wrote a letter outlining his disagreement with Trump’s immigration policies.
“Oregon state law dating back to 1987 prohibits state and local police from enforcing federal immigration law,” Wheeler said.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese released a series of tweets after Sessions spoke, saying everyone, regardless of their immigration status, needs to feel confident going to law enforcement without fear of deportation.
He said immigration enforcement needs to be addressed between federal officials, courts and Congress.
“If the administration wants to make controversial and dangerous changes to immigration enforcement, they should convince Congress instead of leaning on local law enforcement,” Reese wrote.
in the streets outside the Portland immigration office to protest Sessions’ visit Tuesday.
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