On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions returned to his former Capitol Hill stomping grounds for his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee since his confirmation hearings.
In one of the most fiery exchanges of the day, Sessions clashed with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin over the issue of violent crime in Chicago, and the Justice Department’s continuing efforts to link his criminalization of the immigrant communities there with the city’s murder rate.
Citing Sessions’ plan to revoke certain federal grants over the Chicago’s refusal to use local law enforcement for federal immigration actions, Durbin quoted the city’s Superintendent of Police to Sessions:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll 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 immigration police.
The superintendent’s criticism is a fairly common one in law enforcement communities, who argue that by tasking municipal police with federal immigration orders, those local officers will be less able to do their primary jobs effectively.
“Mr. Attorney General, you’re not helping us solve the murder problem in the city of Chicago by taking away these federal funds,” Durbin insisted. “And the superintendent says that your pursuit of undocumented immigrants has little or nothing to do with gun violence in Chicago.”
Sessions, citing concern over the “health and morale” of the Chicago Police Department, pushed back on Durbin’s assertion, claiming that all undocumented immigrants who are arrested by local police should nevertheless be turned over to federal authorities.
“Mr. Attorney General. You can’t give an opening statement throwing a bouquet to local police and then ignore what the Superintendent of Police in Chicago tells you has nothing to do with gun violence,” Durbin shot back. “You can’t have it both ways.”