CHICAGO — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions slammed a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago Wednesday, saying Mayor Rahm Emanuel is choosing politics over safety.
Last week, attorneys for the city of Chicago asked a federal judge to block Sessions' effort to yank federal funds from sanctuary cities like Chicago that don't cooperate with immigration officials by asking about immigration status.
Sessions spoke at an event in Miami-Dade County in Florida, a county that voted to revoke its sanctuary status in February after the Trump administration threatened to cut federal funding for law enforcement programs.
"Chicago, which just sued us a couple of days ago, is not following this example," Sessions said. "The most fundamental duty of government is to ensure the safety, which is part of liberty, for the people."
Sessions accused the city of using immigration as a "political issue," saying that under Chicago's policies "police are forced to release a criminal alien back into the community" instead of notifying immigration officials.
"So if the people in Chicago and these other cities are concerned about losing money I suggest not call me," Sessions said. "Call your City Council and your mayor."
But Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson criticized Sessions saying that "the federal government's plans will hamper community policing" and undermine the city's violence prevention strategies.
"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," Johnson said in a statement.
Sessions quoted from the lawsuit that alleged the Trump administration's demand that all sanctuary cities revoke that status would require the Chicago Police Department to do a "reordering of law enforcement practice in the city."
"That's exactly the point," Sessions said. "For the sake of the city, Chicago's leaders need to recommit to policies that punish criminals."
Proponents of sanctuary policies often point to the policies as ways to fight crime so that undocumented residents feel more comfortable talking to law enforcement. Sessions said there was no proof of that.