Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday lambasted sanctuary cities in a speech to state and local law enforcement in Philadelphia, one of America's largest cities with such a policy.
A handful of people protested the event, chanting "No ban, no wall, the Trump regime has got to fall" and blocking the street, causing traffic to be diverted.
Philadelphia is a sanctuary city, a fact that was likely front and center in Sessions' mind when he chose to deliver his speech there. Working to reduce immigrant crime, especially crimes committed by the notorious MS-13 international gang, was central to Sessions' pitch to the law enforcement officials present.
"We are going to dismantle the transnational cartels, drug traffickers, and gangs that bring violence and death to communities like Philadelphia," Sessions said. "This department is especially focused on eradicating the threat posed by MS-13."
According to Sessions, MS-13 is now believed to have over 10,000 members in 40 states, recruiting people from high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools.
"It's amazing how violent they are," he said.
Yet, efforts to curb the gang have been substantially curtailed by sanctuary city policies which, according to Sessions, limit the ability of federal officials to effectively prosecute and deport illegal immigrant criminals.
"They are giving sanctuary not to their law-abiding residents; they are giving sanctuary to criminals," he said.
This problem, Sessions said, has extended to Philadelphia. He told the story of one illegal immigrant who was previously deported but reentered the U.S. He was released from custody in Philadelphia after the city's policies blocked local police from deporting him. After release, he went on to sexually assault a child.
Sessions was quick to emphasize that the problem was policies, not police.
"Now I want to be clear about this: local police I know are totally supportive and want to work together on many of these issues. I know that you want to help. The problem often are the policies that tie your hands. And that makes all citizens, and especially our police on the streets, less safe," he said.
Beyond addressing the sanctuary city issue, Sessions touted some of the Justice Department's recent successes. He noted the recent health care fraud bust, which arrested more than 400 people charged with over $1.3 billion in health care fraud, and the shutting down of the largest dark-net drug market, AlphaBay.
Alongside successes, however, Sessions reemphasized his Justice Department's commitment to combatting violent crime, especially the spiking urban murder rate.
"Here is the point: This Department of Justice will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness or crime," Sessions said. "We will work to strengthen our partnerships. We understand fully the immense leadership and importance of state and local law enforcement."