PORTLAND, Ore. -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to Portland on Tuesday to talk with law enforcement officers about immigration policies.
He also spoke publicly about the impact he believes sanctuary cities have had on crime.
Here is the full text of his public speech:
Thank you for that kind introduction.
It is an honor to be here with you all – with the selfless and courageous men and women of law enforcement. President Trump and this Department of Justice understand your mission. He has directed us to support that mission and support you.
As a former federal prosecutor, for 14 years, I was blessed to work every day with federal, state, and local law enforcement. And there is nothing I am more proud of than what we accomplished together.
We are in the midst of a multi-front battle: an increase in violent crime, a rise in vicious gang activity, an opioid epidemic that it is taking an American life every ten minutes, and threats from terrorism—combined with a culture in which family and discipline seem to be eroding further and a disturbing disrespect for the rule of law.
After decreasing for over 20 years because of the hard but necessary work our country started in the 1980s, violent crime is back. The murder rate surged nearly 11 percent nationwide in 2015 – the largest increase since 1968. Per capita homicide rates are up in 27 of our 35 largest cities.
And Portland is not immune to these problems. Between 2013 and 2015, the city saw an increase in homicides of more than 140 percent. In 2015, Portland Police received more than 180 calls related to gangs, including shootings, stabbings, and assaults – the highest number since they began recording that number nearly 20 years ago, and almost double the count from 2014.
You know the tragic consequences of crime all too well.
You know the story of 17-year-old Jose Morales, who was shot and killed with a rifle, allegedly at the hands of local gang members in Gresham.
Or the story of the 17-year-old from Vancouver who was murdered in the middle of the day in Holladay Park. They had their whole lives ahead of them—lives that we and their loved ones will never get to see.
The fundamental duty of this government is to protect the safety and the rights of its citizens. President Trump is a law and order President.
One of his first executive orders was to back our police and another was to reduce crime in America. That is our goal. That is your goal. We must not cave to rising crime. Working together, with professionalism and dedication we can begin to turn this pernicious trend.
To get on the right track, there are a number of things we must fix. A key concern is that some jurisdictions have undertaken to undo our immigration laws through so-called “sanctuary policies.”
Such policies undermine the moral authority of law and undermine the safety of the jurisdictions that adopt them.
In Portland and all over Oregon, here’s how it works right now: once the police arrest an illegal alien and charge him with a crime, they fingerprint him and book him into their jail.
When federal immigration authorities learn that this criminal alien is in a jurisdiction’s custody, our ICE officers issue a detainer request accompanied by a civil arrest warrant and ask the city to either notify them before they release the criminal or to hold the criminal alien long enough to transfer him to federal custody in a safe setting.
But political leaders have directed state and local officers to refuse these requests. Cooperation has been a key element in informed crime fighting for decades.
The result is that police are forced to release the criminal alien back into the community without regard to the seriousness of his crimes or the length of his rap sheet. Think about that: Police may be forced to release pedophiles, rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and arsonists back into the communities where they had no right to be in the first place. They should according to law and common sense be processed and deported.
These policies hinder the work of federal law enforcement; they’re contrary to the rule of law, and they have serious consequences for the law-abiding residents of Oregon.
Just two months ago, an alleged illegal alien named Sergio Martinez was arrested in Portland.
Martinez had been deported at least 20 times, and police reports show that he was arrested at least 10 times just this year – accused of everything from possessing drugs to stealing a car.
Federal immigration authorities properly lodged a detainer against Martinez just a few months before, asking to be notified when he was set to be released. But authorities in Oregon refused.
According to the allegations, Martinez then broke into the home of a 65-year-old Portland woman by crawling through her bedroom window. Once inside, he reportedly forced her to the ground, used scarves and socks to blindfold, bind, and gag her, and then raped her and slammed her head into the wooden floor.
These policies do far greater damage than many understand. At its root, they are a rejection of our immigration laws and a declaration of open borders.
These lawless policies do more than shield individual criminal illegal aliens – they also shelter lethal gangs like the Latin Kings and MS-13.
These predators thrive when crime is not met with consequences. This state of lawlessness allows gangs to smuggle guns, drugs, and even humans across borders and around cities and communities.
That makes a sanctuary city a trafficker, smuggler, or gang member’s best friend.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the case of Kate Steinle. She was just 32 years old when she was murdered in cold blood as she walked a pier in San Francisco with her father. Her alleged murderer is an illegal alien who had been deported five times.
In fact, he admitted that one reason he was there that day was that he knew the city had these policies in place.
And just in the last week, 23-year old Abel Esquivel, a popular community volunteer who mentored young people in his San Francisco neighborhood, was allegedly shot to death by two illegal aliens attempting to rob him after he left work.
About three weeks earlier, one of his alleged killers was arrested for an alleged battery, and, despite a detainer request from ICE, he was released. One of the other defendants in the murder case also had an ICE detainer request for him when he was arrested back in May for illegal possession of marijuana and brass knuckles. Both requests were ignored. Both walked free.
And because of these policies and in the face of all common sense, Abel was gunned down in the street by two people who never should have been there.
Sadly, after these tragic cases, the legislature in California—where these tragedies occurred—has now passed legislation to further limit law enforcement cooperation with immigration enforcement.
It is an unconscionable reaction to Mr. Esquivel's murder to put into law the very policies that got him killed.
They will say that forcing police officers to release criminal aliens back onto the streets will somehow increase community trust. But that does not make sense to me. Would releasing someone who had been arrested 10 times this year into your community give you more confidence in law enforcement?
Would learning that your local district attorney actually charges illegal aliens with less serious crimes to evade federal deportation make you believe they are trying to make your neighborhood safer? Would forcing federal officers to track criminal aliens on your street instead of safely in the jails make you believe we value your community?
And we all know law enforcement is not the problem.
You risk your lives each day in service of the law and the people you protect.
The problem is the policies that tie your hands. Sanctuary policies endanger us all, and especially the federal immigration officers who are forced to pursue criminal aliens outside of jails and prisons.
Yet, rather than reconsider their policies, these sanctuary jurisdictions feign outrage when they lose federal funds as a direct result of actions designed to nullify plain federal law. Some, including Portland, have even decided to sue this administration so that they can keep receiving taxpayer-funded grants while continuing to impede federal immigration enforcement.
These grants are not an entitlement. We strive to help state and local law enforcement.
But we cannot continue giving such federal grants to cities that actively undermine the safety of federal law officers and actively frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities.
Our duty to protect public safety and protect taxpayer dollars and I plan to fulfill that duty.
The vast majority of Americans oppose “sanctuary” policies. According to one poll, 80 percent of Americans believe that cities should turn over criminal aliens to immigration officials. A poll taken earlier this month of swing-state voters found the same thing: 77 percent support denying federal funds to sanctuary cities.
The American people are not asking too much, and neither is the Department of Justice. Federal law enforcement wants to work with our partners at the state and local level. We want to keep our citizens safe.
And to win this multi-front war against rising crime, we need to use every lawful tool we have. And we need to eliminate all bad policies.
So I urge the city of Portland, the state of Oregon, and every “sanctuary” jurisdiction to reconsider.
And I urge Governor Brown not to sign this law that is in front of him. The bill risks the safety of good law enforcement officers and the safety of the neighborhoods that need their protection the most. There are lives and livelihoods at stake.
Together, we can make our country safer for all our residents—--native born and lawful immigrant alike.
The Department of Justice will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness or crime. Nor will we tolerate the loss of innocent life because a handful of jurisdictions believe they are above the law.
And I know that the Acting ICE Director, Tom Homan, will work tirelessly with his men and women to track down and find these criminal aliens—wherever they may be.
The American people rightly want a lawful immigration system that keeps us safe and serves the national interest.
U.S. Attorney Billy Williams has been eloquent about sanctuary policies: If we’re going to make this community safer, then we have to work together. Cooperation between law enforcement works. It saves lives.
And so to all the law enforcement here— – federal, state, and local— – thank you for all that you do. President Trump is grateful, I am grateful, and the entire Department of Justice is grateful for your service. We have your back and you have our thanks.
Thank you, and God bless you.