Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that Chicago, an already dangerous city due to excessive gun violence, is being made more dangerous for its residents because of the city's "sanctuary city" policies that prevent it from working with the federal government to remove illegal immigrants.
"So-called ‘sanctuary' policies tie the hands of law enforcement by rejecting common sense and undermining federal laws that would remove criminal, illegal aliens from the streets and remove them from this country," Sessions said. He said those policies "endanger us all by letting dangerous criminals stay in this country that are due to be removed."
In March, Mayor Rahm Emanuel reaffirmed Chicago's status as a sanctuary city, despite warnings from Sessions and the Trump administration.
In April, Sessions sent a letter to nine jurisdictions putting them on warning to prove compliance with federal immigration laws. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were two of those officials who received a letter that set a deadline to declare compliance or risk losing $3.2 million in Justice Department grants.
Neither Chicago nor the Justice Department have commented publicly on the status of compliance.
Sessions' comment came just as the federal government created a new task force aimed at curbing violence, getting illegal guns off the street and bolstering public safety in Chicago.
"Last year, more than 4,300 Chicagoans were shot, and more than 700 were killed — the deadliest year in two decades," said Sessions on Friday. "The Trump administration will not let the bloodshed go on; we cannot accept these levels of violence."
The Chicago Gun Strike Force, which became operational on June 1, is focused on the neighborhoods in Chicago-area with the "highest concentration of firearm violence," the Justice Department said. The Strike Force is made up of 20 permanent ATF special agents, six intelligence research specialists, 12 task force officers from the Chicago Police Department, two task force officers from the Illinois State Police and four specialists from the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
On Friday, President Trump tweeted that "Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help."
Late Thursday, the Chicago Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced the Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force.
Last year, Chicago had 762 homicides — a number higher than the combined gun deaths of New York and Los Angeles. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, more than 1,700 people have been shot in 2017, including 306 who died.