Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Cities resist US immigration rules

‘NO DANGER’:Philadelphia official Helen Gym said that immigrants in the country illegally are part of the fabric of the US and are ‘actually the ones in the most danger’


US Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a White House briefing in Washington on Monday.

Photo: Bloomberg

City leaders across the US are vowing to intensify their fight against US President Donald Trump’s promised crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities.”

“We are going to become this administration’s worst nightmare,” New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said on Monday during a gathering of municipal officials from urban centers such as San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago and Philadelphia.

As is the case in several sanctuary cities, they promised to continue blocking cooperation between city police departments and federal immigration authorities.

They also vowed to prevent federal agents from accessing their schools and school records, and openly contemplated employing cities’ rarely used oversight and subpoena powers to investigate federal immigration practices.

The defiance that filled the New York City conference clashed with warnings from the White House’s West Wing, where US Attorney General Jeff Sessions told urban leaders who embrace policies that help protect illegal immigrants in the country from deportation.

Such policies, Sessions said, “endanger the lives of every American” and violate federal law.

He said the Trump White House could withhold or “claw back” funding from any city that “willfully violates” immigration law.

Sessions said the US Department of Justice would require cities seeking some of the US$4.1 billion available in grant money to verify that they are in compliance with a section of federal law that allows information sharing with immigration officials.

“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and to rethink these policies,” he said.

Trump won the presidency in a campaign that regularly highlighted violent crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally.

Sessions drew from the same playbook at the White House podium, citing two murders committed by immigrants released by local authorities even though they were wanted by federal agents.

City leaders said that such examples are the exception, not the rule.

Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym said immigrants in the country illegally are part of the “fabric of America.”

“It’s not like immigrants are dangerous. They’re actually the ones in the most danger,” Gym said, citing labor and housing practices that she said discriminate against immigrants.

City officials shared stories of immigrants in their communities seized by federal immigration agents at their children’s schools and at courthouses as they appeared as victims of other crimes.

Gym said some landlords have used Trump’s rhetoric to expel immigrant tenants.

There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

Trump in January issued an executive order that directs the US Secretary of Homeland Security to publish a weekly list of “criminal actions committed by aliens.”

The administration last week reported more than 200 cases of immigrants recently released from local jails before federal agents could intervene.

Lourdes Rosado, who leads the New York attorney general’s civil rights bureau, said that municipalities have legal standing to resist what she described as immigration overreach by the new White House.

“Sessions makes it sound as if we’re breaking the law, but the point is, it’s voluntary whether or not to cooperate,” Rosado said, acknowledging that states and cities might have to resolve the issue in court.

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