During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions harmed Chicago’s law enforcement by withholding federal grants based on the city’s refusal to comply with federal immigration law.
After decrying the high level of gun violence in Chicago, Durbin accused Sessions of blocking federal money that the city would put toward technology designed to prevent gun deaths.
Under Sessions, the Justice Department required cities like Chicago to alter their practices to comply with federal immigration laws or risk losing access to Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG).
During the hearing on Tuesday, Durbin cited from Chicago’s superintendent of police who criticized Sessions for focusing too much on immigration enforcement and “hampering community policing.”
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll 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 immigration police,” Durbin read from a statement from Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Sessions, Durbin implied, was wasting local law enforcement’s time by having them act on federal civil laws.
In response, Sessions issued a fiery denunciation of Durbin’s apparent logic:
“I think the politicians cannot say that if you remove a violent criminal from America that’s illegally in the country — and he’s arrested by the Chicago police and put in the Chicago jail — that once they’re released, they shouldn’t be turned over to the federal ICE officer so they can be removed from the country. They were here illegally to begin with! Much less commit another crime! … How does that make the city of Chicago safer when you don’t remove criminals who are illegally in the country?”
In response to Durbin complaining that Sessions was hampering local law enforcement while decrying the city’s gun crisis, Sessions said he designated additional Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) agents to prosecute gun crimes.
Durbin gave Sessions a smirk after he noted the number of agents — 12 — the attorney general allocated.
Sessions charged back that “the United States government can’t take over law enforcement for the city of Chicago.”
“Nor can the city of Chicago take over immigration [enforcement],” Durbin argued.
Sessions clarified that he wanted Chicago to receive federal grants but needed the city to merely notify the federal government when it had an immigrant in jail who was set to be deported.
“We need their support!” he fired at Durbin.
Watch the full Sessions-Durbin exchange below, via C-SPAN.