AG Jeff Sessions visits Miami as mayor blasts Trump’s ‘ambiguity’ on Charlottesville

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Miami.

MIAMI — Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to town to commend Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for shedding his county’s “sanctuary city” status and cooperating with the federal government by holding jail inmates who have been targeted for deportation.

But it wasn’t exactly a love-fest. Before Sessions’ arrival, Gimenez issued a statement condemning President Donald Trump for his “ambiguity” about blame for the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. And while Sessions praised Miami Dade in his remarks, he devoted much of his speech to condemning Chicago and other cities for challenging federal efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

Trump initially blamed “many sides” for Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, then specifically called out “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” On Tuesday, however, Trump said there was “a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”

Said Gimenez: “It was very disappointing to hear President Trump essentially take back his comments from Monday condemning white supremacists and their actions in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. There should be no ambiguity about what took place in Charlottesville. A young woman lost her life, several others were injured, and hatred and bigotry were on display.”

Sessions also spoke briefly about Charlottesville during his Miami visit.

“In no way can we accept or apologize for racism, bigotry, hatred, violence and those kinds of things that too often arise in our country,” said Sessions, who said the FBI is “aggressively” investigating the matter in cooperation with local law enforcement.

Trump has threatened to withhold federal grant money from “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate with federal immigration policies, such as honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests for “detainers” on jail inmates who would otherwise be released but are targeted for deportation. Miami Dade’s government, citing concern about losing a $480,000 federal law enforcement grant, recently reversed its past “sanctuary” policy.

“Miami Dade is an example of what is possible with hard work, professional policing and a rededication to the rule of law,” Sessions said in remarks to more than 100 law enforcement officers and ICE officials at a cruise terminal. “Miami Dade is now in compliance, full compliance, and eligible for all federal law enforcement grant dollars. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This is good news for law enforcement and for the citizens of Miami Dade. It means more money for crime fighting. It means we’re partners, partners together in keeping everyone safe.”

Chicago and other cities have filed lawsuits calling Trump’s threat unconstitutional. Many argue that local governments shouldn’t be part of immigration enforcement and that cooperation with ICE builds distrust between minority communities and police.

“The Trump Justice Department … is asking the city of Chicago to choose between our core values as a welcoming city and our fundamental principles of community policing,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a recent news conference. “It is a false choice and a wrong choice. Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate.”

Sessions said Chicago’s political leaders are jeopardizing public safety.

“The leaders in Chicago have made this a political issue… This is a serious problem for the people,” Sessions said.

As for the threatened loss of federal grant money, Sessions said: “If the people in Chicago and these other cities are concerned about losing money, I suggest not calling me but calling your city council and your mayor.”

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