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AG Jeff Sessions to visit Philadelphia and talk sanctuary cities

 Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calls on a member of the media at a news conference to announce an international cybercrime enforcement action at the Department of Justice, Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calls on a member of the media at a news conference to announce an international cybercrime enforcement action at the Department of Justice, Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in Philadelphia Friday morning to speak to federal, state and local law enforcement about efforts to fight crime and sanctuary cities.

Sessions and President Trump have threatened to cut off some federal funding to Philadelphia and other cities that have adopted policies limiting cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.

At a press conference in March, Sessions argued sanctuary cities are breaking the law and putting dangerous people back on the streets, instead of holding them for ICE to deport.

“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators,” he said. “DUIs, assaults, burglaries, drug crimes, gang rapes, crimes against children and murderers. Countless Americans would be alive today and countless loved ones would not be grieving today if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended.”

Sessions gave Philadelphia and eight other cities until June 30 to certify that they share information with federal immigration officials according to a specific federal statute or they could stand to lose grant dollars from the Justice Department. The statute in question, U.S. Code 8, section 1373, says federal, state and local governments “may not prohibit or in any way restrict” government officials from sending or receiving information about any person’s immigration or citizenship status.

For Philadelphia, at risk is a $1.6 million grant the city received in 2016, which is already being spent on various public safety initiatives, including training and overtime for city police officers.

The city asserts that it does comply with that statute, although it does not allow officials, such as police officers, to collect information about immigration status during an arrest, for example. Since it doesn’t collect that information, the city in most cases does not have that information to share, said city solicitor Sozi Tulante in a letter to Sessions.

Sessions’ speech starts 11 a.m. Friday at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Center City. Activists say they plan to protest outside the office and to demonstrate in favor of Philadelphia’s sanctuary policies. 

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