U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions slammed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday after the city filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration's new sanctuary city policies, saying "no amount of federal taxpayer dollars" will go to Chicago if they move forward in retaliation.
The Trump administration in March introduced a new policy that would withhold funds from so-called "sanctuary cities" that blockade U.S. immigration official access to local jails. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday claims these conditions "fly in the face of longstanding City policy that promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities" -- an argument Sessions described as "astounding."
"No amount of federal taxpayer dollars will help a city that refuses to help its own residents," Sessions said in the statement. "The Mayor complains that the federal government's focus on enforcing the law would require a 'reordering of law enforcement practice in Chicago.' But that's just what Chicago needs: a recommitment to the rule of law and to policies that rollback the culture of lawlessness that has beset the city."
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Emanuel -- who previously served as White House chief of staff to former President Barack Obama -- defended the lawsuit on CNN, saying the DOJ-ordered policy updates "undermines our actual safety agenda."
"We want you to come to Chicago if you believe in the American dream," Emanuel said. "By forcing us, or the police department, to choose between the values of the city and the philosophy of the police department, in community policing, I think it's a false choice and it undermines our actual safety agenda."
Sessions' reference to "a culture of lawlessness" in Chicago comes after President Trump continues to point to the Illinois city as an example of rampant "crime and killings" in the U.S. According to a Chicago Tribune database, there have been 416 homicides in Chicago in 2017 as of Tuesday, August 8, where there were 788 homicides total in 2016.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson spoke out after Sessions released his statement, pushing back against the rhetoric linking violent crime to undocumented immigrant populations.
"Undocumented immigrants are not driving violence in Chicago," Johnson said. "And that's why I want our officers focused on community policing and not trying to be the immigration police," he said.
The statement from the federal government's highest law enforcement official ended with a direct warning for Emanuel and other local officials.
The tough language from Sessions comes after the attorney general suffered an embattled mid-summer as Trump publicly criticized the former U.S. senator from Alabama for taking a "weak position" in recusing himself from an ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
After reports that the DOJ head and Trump were not on speaking terms, new White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly assured Sessions his job within the administration is secure. Hardline statements enforcing the president's agenda could potentially serve as an approval boost from the commander in chief for Sessions.
"This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety," the statement reads. "So it's this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars."
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