Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing Monday afternoon to urge sanctuary cities to change their policies, noting that the Department of Justice plans to deny them funding if they do not begin following federal immigration laws.
“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities ad counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to our citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies,” Sessions said.
So-called “sanctuary cities” offer safe harbor to undocumented immigrants who might otherwise be deported by federal law enforcement officials. The United States has more than 140 sanctuary jurisdictions, either cities or counties, including 37 cities. Among the sanctuary cities are San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.
But the Trump administration has argued that sanctuary cities also offer safety from deportation for undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said. “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.”
Sessions’ comments follow approximately two months after President Trump’s executive order allowing the attorney general and homeland security secretary to decide whether sanctuary cities would be eligible for federal grants. The order was one of the first Mr. Trump signed after taking office.
This is of course entirely expected with a racist white nationalists in the Oval Office naming an open neo-Confederate as Attorney General. The Slave Power lives. The extent to which cities fight back will be very interesting. The key is that they do not cave. If one or two cave, a bunch will. This will take grassroots activism to demand mayors do the right thing, even if it costs money. This is an ethnic cleansing moment and as I have said before, if you want to know what you would have done if you lived under a fascist power in the past, well, now you know based upon what you do today.
Why did this happen today? David Kurtz speculates, convincingly.
Perhaps the White House had planned all along for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make an appearance at today’s press briefing to rail against sanctuary cities. But the timing is consistent with what I’ve long feared will be the impulse for the Trump administration: When the going gets rough (failed Obamacare repeal, low poll numbers, etc), it will fall back on appeals to racism and xenophobia to regain political footing.
With so much incompetence taking root, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario where those base appeals must become more amped up, extreme, and scurrilous to be “effective.” It threatens to turn into a vicious cycle the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country.
Obviously we can’t know this. But doesn’t shifting from a defeat by fanning the flames of racism sound exactly like something Steve Bannon would do?