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Sessions: Chicago's sanctuary city policies are 'lawlessness'

By Sophie Tatum, CNN

(CNN) -- US Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticized the city of Chicago Wednesday for its "lawless" sanctuary city policies.

Speaking in Miami, the attorney general criticized Chicago's leaders, like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and its city council, arguing that the sanctuary city policies are a rejection of US immigration laws, and "a declaration of open borders."

Chicago is in the midst of a legal battle with the US Department of Justice after city leaders -- including Emanuel -- filed a federal lawsuit against the DOJ over specific "immigration compliance requirements" in exchange for federal grant money.

"These lawless policies do more than shield individual criminal aliens -- they also shelter and protect lethal gangs and transnational criminal organizations like the Latin Kings, the Bloods, MS-13," Sessions said while speaking in Miami.

"This is lawlessness," he said. "It makes no sense as a matter of policy. It is not moral or legal. ... For the sake of their city, Chicago's leaders need to recommit to policies that punish criminals instead of protecting them. They need to protect their citizens and not the criminals."

On Wednesday, Sessions reiterated the possibility of withholding federal dollars from localities with sanctuary city policies.

"We cannot continue giving taxpayer money to cities that actively undermine the safety and efficacy of federal law enforcement and actively frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities," Sessions said Wednesday. "So if the people in Chicago and these other cities are concerned about losing money, I suggest not call me, call your city council and your mayor."

Emanuel pushed back against the Trump administration again Wednesday.

"In a week in which the Trump administration is being forced to answer questions about neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK, they could not have picked a worse time to resume their attack on the immigrants who see America as a beacon of hope," Emanuel said in statement on Wednesday in light of the President's controversial remarks in the aftermath of Charlottesville. "Chicago will continue to stand up proudly as a welcoming city, and we will not cave to the Trump administration's pressure because they are wrong morally, wrong factually and wrong legally."

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also released a statement on Wednesday:

"I have been a police officer for more than 30 years and the federal government's plans will hamper community policing and undermine the work our men and women have done to reduce shootings by 16% so far this year. I have said it before and I will 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 the immigration police."

Sessions applauded Miami-Dade for its compliance with the Justice Department's funding requirements.

"I'm here to announce that Miami-Dade is now in compliance, full compliance, and eligible for federal law enforcement grant dollars. Thank you, Mr. Mayor for leadership. This is good news for law enforcement and the citizens of Miami-Dade. It means more money for crime fighting. And it means we are partners, partners together, in keeping everyone safe," Sessions said. "Unfortunately, we have areas in the country that are not doing so well. Chicago, that just sued us a couple of days ago, is not following this example."

San Francisco and the state of California also filed cases against the Trump administration in its efforts to limit funds to city's that don't meet the immigration policy requirements.

Emanuel, who also previously served as former President Barack Obama's chief of staff, has also been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

In a press release on August 6, Emanuel addressed the sanctuary city policy, saying: "Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city. The city of Chicago will continue to stand up to President (Donald) Trump and his Justice Department to ensure that their misguided policies do not threaten the safety of our residents."

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