Department of Justice Sends Letters Threatening To Withhold Funds From “Sanctuary Cities”

Jeff Sessions Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore

The Trump administration sent out letters on Friday, April 21st, threatening to take away federal aid from so-called “sanctuary cities.” A press release from the Department of Justice, in conjunction with the mailing of the letters, said that the “sanctuary cities [are] crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime.” The press release singled out New York City as a place plagued by gang-related murders and referred to the city as having a “soft on crime” policy. The release said that the targeted cities had to show they were in compliance with the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies by June 30, 2017 or risk a cutoff in Department of Justice grants.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the charge that the New York Police Department is soft on crime is “absurd.” As Senator Chuck Schumer noted in an interview on Morning Joe on April 24th, New York City now has the lowest crime rate of any of the 25 largest cities in the United States. Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the Department of Justice’s claim; “It is an outrageous statement, and is absurd on its face and ignores a quarter century of progress in this city in bringing down crime…We did not become the safest big city in America by being soft on crime.”

Jeff Sessions, who represented Alabama for decades, likes to compare his own “tough on immigrants” state’s laws to those with “sanctuary” policies. In fact, in spite of Alabama having the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the nation and one of the lowest percentages of immigrants in its population, the state is actually significantly more dangerous than New York. For example, for the last year that comprehensive statistics are available, Alabama’s Murder Rate was 5.7, compared to 3.1 for New York. Rapes were also significantly more common in Alabama, at 41.3 per 100,000 people, while New York State’s rate was 27.5 per 100,000.

When jurisdictions craft sensible policies that build trust between immigrants and the police, crime rates go down, not up.