U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested Wednesday that Chicago’s status as a so-called “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants contributes to the city’s high murder total.
“Last year, Chicago’s 2.7 million residents experienced more murders than the 12 million people who live in New York and Los Angeles combined,” Sessions said in a speech from Miami. “Respect for the rule of law has broken down in Chicago. The sanctuary city policies are one sad example of that.”
But a fact-check published Thursday by the Better Government Association and PolitiFact says the connection Sessions made between violent crime and city immigration policies is “groundless.”
Matt Dietrich, who wrote the fact-check, said there is ample evidence that Chicago’s high murder total is a result of gang violence and not illegal immigration.
Dietrich spoke with WBEZ’s Melba Lara on Thursday about his report. Below are highlights from their conversation
On why Sessions is calling out Chicago
Matt Dietrich: There are a lot of elements that go into this fact-check but I think the overarching one is that Jeff Sessions is trying to connect a couple of dots here that simply cannot be connected. He’s taking Chicago and using it as an example because of the number of homicides and the amount of gun violence in Chicago, and he’s equating that with illegal immigrants, in other words saying that if Chicago police would get tougher on immigration that the shootings and murders would go down.
There’s ample evidence — and I think police superintendent Eddie Johnson has said it repeatedly — that this is a product of gang violence in the city, not illegal immigrants.
On the crime rate among undocumented immigrants
Dietrich: The research says overwhelmingly that undocumented immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes. We quote in the fact-check from one of the authors of a study on this, and he says illegal immigrants are very motivated not to blow that opportunity by getting in trouble with the police. They’re here mostly because the want to work and they have added incentive to not break the law.
On whether or not Chicago has an official policy of ‘protecting criminal aliens’
Dietrich: What Chicago has is a directive to police officers that they are not to use immigration status as grounds for detaining someone. They are not to question people about their immigration status. The interaction that they can have with federal immigration agents is very limited, by directive. However, that same directive also has a four-point clause that says that the conditions that I just described don’t apply if a suspect has an outstanding criminal warrant, if the suspect has been convicted of a felony, if the suspect is a defendant in a case in which a felony charge is pending or if the suspect has been identified as a known gang member or admits that they’re a known gang member.
So as far as having an official policy that protects what Jeff Sessions calls “criminal aliens,” no, that’s not true.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire segment, which was produced by Patrick Smith. Web story written by Justin Bull.