SCRANTON, Pa. (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech at a local college on Friday, criticized Philadelphia and its mayor over the city’s ‘sanctuary’ status, one that limits its cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities.
Sessions accused the city of coddling dangerous criminals and refusing to turn them over to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials when requested.
“Philadelphia is not giving sanctuary to Americans but to foreign criminals,” he said. “If they reach Philadelphia, they are home free. It is a de facto open borders policy.”
The administration of President Donald Trump regularly criticizes cities and other jurisdictions, estimated to number more than 500 nationwide, that have adopted some sanctuary policies.
Sessions took special aim at Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney, who has reaffirmed the city’s “welcoming” stance toward immigrants.
City spokeswoman Deana Gamble told Reuters that Philadelphia will turn over illegal immigrants to federal officials if presented with a criminal warrant or an order from a judge, but not if ICE presents only an administrative warrant.
“The city honors ICE’s requests for notification of release and to detain individuals whenever ICE obtains a warrant or order from a judge,” Gamble said in a statement.
“However, ICE often refuses to obtain warrants or orders from judges and makes requests of the city that have not been approved by any court. Philadelphia does not protect or harbor criminals,” she said.
Sessions also said on Friday that the Justice Department would confront any problems uncovered by an inspector general’s report that found former FBI Director James Comey made errors of judgment in handling a Hillary Clinton email investigation. [nL1N1TG0XR]
He did not address the Justice Department’s separating children from their parents if they are caught illegally crossing the Mexican border, or his partial justification of that policy on Thursday by quoting a Bible verse.
Reporting by David DeKok, Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Rosalba O’Brien