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- Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III,, in the flesh
On Friday morning, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions showed up in Austin to deliver familiar Trump Administration talking points about immigration:
"We should only accept immigrants prepared to enter lawfully".... "We are getting serious about illegal immigration"..."The [border] wall will send a message to the world that we enforce our laws."
Sessions did, however, take a moment to localize his message, applauding Texas for fighting in court to enact a new law against so-called "sanctuary cities," called Senate Bill 4. The law would prohibit law enforcement officials from making rules against racial profiling (threatening them with jail time if they did) and force local jails to follow orders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to lock up arrested undocumented immigrants (even if they were found guilty or paid bail) until ICE can pick them up.
"I want to commend the state legislature for passing SB 4," he said. "I urge every so-called sanctuary jurisdiction to please reconsider your policy."
He's talking about some of the largest jurisdictions in the state — San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas and Bexar and El Paso counties (to name a few) — who've pledged to be "sanctuaries" for undocumented immigrants targeted by state officials and the federal government. These jurisdictions are also fighting the state in federal court over the constitutionality of SB 4, which has put the law on hold.
"These sanctuary polices risk the safety of law enforcement officers and the safety of our neighborhoods," Sessions continued.
Texas' big-city law enforcement leaders disagree.
Shortly after SB 4 was signed into law, the police chiefs in San Antonio, Austin, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston came out in loud opposition to the law, saying it will only push people further into the shadows and keep undocumented people from reporting crimes, which ultimately endangers public safety.
"SB 4 will make our communities more dangerous, not safer, as we presume the legislature intended," the chiefs wrote in a May letter to Gov. Greg Abbott.
They believe the law will only widen the divide between law enforcement and undocumented immigrants, resulting in "increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims, and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime."
Sessions appeared oblivious to this unified opposition, and spent most of his time applauding the hard work of Texas law enforcement.
"We have your back," he said to them, after sharing his support of a law that would incarcerate law enforcement for creating anti-discriminatory polices.
Shortly after his address, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, whose opposition to ICE orders sparked the latest sanctuary city movement, reiterated Texas law enforcement's stance on SB 4.
“I could not disagree more strongly [with Sessions]. SB 4 does not make our communities safer and Attorney General Sessions does not know our community," she said in a statement.