WASHINGTON — Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions told The Daily Caller Tuesday that city officials that defy federal immigration laws could be charged with crime for not informing officials about felons the city is harboring.
“I guess you could make it a crime. I’m not aware that it is a crime, but they could be charged. There may be something in the code. To me, it’s just unthinkable — as United States attorney I had a bunch of cities and every day holds are filed. So many criminals have committed crimes in multiple jurisdictions,” Sessions said.
Sessions remarks comes on the heels of the shooting of Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old who died last Wednesday after a five-time deported Mexican national, Francisco Sanchez, fatally shot Steinle in San Francisco.
San Francisco, known for its decades-old sanctuary city status, only allows holds on felons with violent records. Sanchez, according to local reports had multiple felonies but no major violent crime convictions in recent years.
“There has to be a recognition that a sanctuary city which San Francisco became decades ago with the Salvadoran relief. That was about persecuted people that may not have proper status being given sanctuary,” California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa told The Daily Caller.
“Convicted felons that have been previously deported and who were incarcerated under the care and control of a city, county, or a state—they have an obligation and their obligation cannot allow this so-called sanctuary city. San Francisco flagrantly defied any sense of responsibility for a known violent criminal,” Issa said.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law in 2013 restricting circumstances under when individuals who are arrested could be placed in federal immigration detainers or holds.
As a result, The La Times notes, other cites and counties nationwide stopped cooperating with ICE detainer requests, when a federal judge ruled an Oregon county violated one illegal immigrant’s Fourth Amendment rights by detaining her without probable cause.
“This disregarding of detainers and releasing persons that ICE has put a hold on — it goes against all traditions of law enforcement. Laws and courtesies within departments — if you have somebody charged with a crime in one city, you hold them until you complete your business with them,” Sessions said.
“The other city wants to charge them with an important crime files a detainer and when you’re finished, they’re sent to the next one to face the charges there. They’re not released,” he added noting that another city, which may be looking for the fugitive will have to go look for the criminal again and spend thousands doing so, while the fugitive may “murder somebody in the interim.”
Sessions explained, “So what was happening was, ICE authorities were filing detainers and sanctuary cities were saying, ‘We’re not gonna honor them. They finished paying for the crime they committed in our city — we’ve released them.’”
Sessions believes it is time for Congress to say to cities and counties that if they do not cooperate with Congress as well as federal law enforcement they should not get federal money from Washington.