Mayors, Chief Manger Discuss Immigration Issues with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

In an April 25 meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Conference Vice President and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu stressed that the first priority for mayors and police chiefs is keeping America safe. He commented that police-community relations is an important part of accomplishing this and that every day local police are working with federal authorities on reducing violent crime, particularly that involving gangs. “immigration issues, however, are causing us to bump up against you,” he said.

Representing police chiefs at the meeting was Montgomery County, MD, Police Chief Tom Manger, who is President of Major Cities Chiefs Association and Vice President of the Police Executive Research Forum. Manger registered the chiefs’ support for the Attorney General’s March 8 memo on violent crime and indicated they want to work with him on maintaining civil rights enforcement by the Department’s civil rights division. There are a lot of issues we agree on,” Manger continued, “but we need to hash out immigration issues.He specifically cited those relating to detainers and the letters the Department sent to nine jurisdictions April 21 raising issues regarding their compliance with 8 U.S. Code 8, of the Immigration and Nationalities Act, and the press release which accompanied them.

Among other comments by the mayors in the meeting:

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, co-chair of the Immigration Task Force, assured the Attorney General that mayors agree with him about deporting violent criminals, but expressed concern that some cities are seeing a reduction in reported crimes by members of immigrant communities.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, chair of the Criminal and Social Justice Committee, raised Fourth Amendment issues relating to warrants and findings of probable cause – that they must be judicial not civil warrants and probable cause findings.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler commented that it was helpful to know that the definition of a sanctuary city revolves around compliance with § 1373 and not local authorities’ refusal to respond to a civil warrant or act as federal immigration enforcement agents.

Second Vice President, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, called for constitutional clarity and consistency and told the Attorney General that we cannot put officers on the streets without it. He also expressed concern about the existing and threatened future cuts in key public safety programs, such as homeland security and COPS grants.

Shortly after the meeting, the Justice Department released a statement by the Attorney Generalwhich concluded:

“We are pleased that the mayors who met with us today assured us they want to be in compliance with the law.  The vast majority of state and local jurisdictions are in compliance and want to work with federal law enforcement to keep their communities safe.  Of course, compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 is the minimum the American people should expect.  We want all jurisdictions to enthusiastically support the laws of the United States that require the removal of criminal aliens, as many jurisdictions already do.”

You can watch the press conference, which followed the meeting, below:

About the Author:

Laura Waxman is the Conference of Mayors' Director of Public Safety, focusing on criminal and social justice issues, immigration, human rights, and policing.