Sessions, Emanuel Clash Over Chicago’s Sanctuary City Lawsuit

Rahm Emanuel / Getty Images

Rahm Emanuel / Getty Images


Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are in a war of words about Chicago's lawsuit brought against the Department of Justice over the city's sanctuary city status.

On Wednesday, Sessions blasted Chicago in a speech while he lauded the city of Miami for complying with federal immigration law. On Friday, Emanuel pushed back in a podcast appearance with former Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The conflict began on Aug. 7 when the City of Chicago announced a lawsuit against the Department of Justice. The lawsuit was in response to the DOJ's plan to withhold federal funds from so-called "sanctuary cities," of which Chicago is one. Sanctuary cities limit their cooperation in the enforcement of federal immigration law, protecting illegal immigrants from prosecutions and deportation.

Sessions, at the time, attacked the Emanuel administration. He said Chicago's political leaders had "demonstrated an open hostility to enforcing laws designed to protect law enforcement — federal, state, and local — and reduce crime, and instead have adopted an official policy of protecting criminal aliens who prey on their own residents."

He attacked the city again during an appearance in Miami, Fla., an appearance where he applauded Miami for its compliance with federal immigration laws.

"Unfortunately, some cities – like Chicago – refuse to follow your example," Sessions said. "Respect for the rule of law has broken down. In Chicago, their so-called ‘sanctuary' policies are just one sad example."

Sessions argued that, because of Chicago's non-compliance, when a criminal alien is booked by Chicago police, he is not picked up by federal immigration authorities as he should be.

"When federal immigration authorities learn that this criminal alien is in Chicago’s custody, they can issue an arrest warrant and ask the city to either notify them before the criminal is released or to transfer him to federal custody," Sessions said. "But Chicago’s leaders have made this a political issue and direct their police to refuse both requests. Instead, the police are forced to release the criminal alien back into the community without regard to the seriousness of the crime or how long the rap sheet."

To support his, he cited several instances of violence perpetrated by released illegal alien criminals.

"So if voters in Chicago are concerned about losing federal grant money: call your mayor," he said.

In Emanuel's interview with Axelrod, also conducted Wednesday and released Friday, the Chicago mayor responded. He accused Sessions of misdirection when he ties Chicago's violent crime rate to its sanctuary city status. Emanuel further said Sessions' claim that crime is a result of illegal immigrants, is false.

"First of all, it's not," Emanuel said. "The facts are the facts. You're allowed your own opinion; you're just not allowed your own facts."

"Immigrants, undocumented, are not the driving force for gun violence," he said.

"Our suit does protect the principle of community policing and protects our values as a welcoming city, and they are on the wrong side of the law, the wrong side of the values and the wrong side of criminal justice as it relates to community policing as a principle," Emanuel said, reiterating points from the city's lawsuit.

Emanuel claimed that he reached out to Sessions about funding for after school and summer programs.

"He has no interest in that," Emanuel said.

He also slammed the Trump administration, claiming that President Donald Trump's frequent citing of Chicago's violence problem has a "racial component."

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at

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