PHILADELPHIA, PA – Today in Philadelphia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted sanctuary cities and laid out efforts to combat violent crime in America.
The following is his remarks:
Good morning. It is an honor to be here with you all—with the selfless and courageous men and women of law enforcement. Thank you for all you do to keep us safe.
I want to thank Louis for his hospitality today and for his 20 years of service to the Department.
You’ve got a great job, but it’s a tough job. And right now it’s getting tougher.
Starting in the early 1990s, the crime rate steadily came down across the country until two years ago. Now, violent crime is once again on the rise in many parts of America. The murder rate has surged nearly 11 percent nationwide — the largest increase since 1968. In Philadelphia, from 2014 to 2015, murders went up nearly 13 percent and shooting victims increased by more than 18 percent.
And this year, preliminary data show that murders are up more than 20 percent from last year, which will put the murder rate at the highest in a decade in this city.
Tragically, that number increased just last night, when a 36 year old man in his wheelchair was shot in the head and killed as he entered his home.
These numbers are shocking, and they tell us a lot, but the numbers aren’t what’s most important. What’s most important are the people behind the numbers. Each one of the victims of these crimes had a family, friends, and neighbors. They’re all suffering, too.
You know the stories all too well.
Not even two months ago, 14-year old Tymier Frasier from the Kensington neighborhood was on his way to a friend’s house to play video games when he was caught in crossfire, shot, and bled to death in the middle of the street. Some 70 people—including a 12-year old boy—were outside having a barbecue when they witnessed the fatal shooting of this innocent child.
One neighbor told reporters, “I’m not surprised. Shootings are going on every day around here.”
Another neighbor said, “it could have been my child. My kids hang out here every day. We can’t sit outside without somebody getting killed or getting shot at.”
Too many good people are living as hostages in their own homes.
They deserve better. And I call on everyone to remember that it’s not our privileged communities that suffer the most from crime and violence. Regardless of wealth or race, every American has the right to demand a safe neighborhood.
The first and most important job of this government—and any government—is to protect the safety and the rights of its citizens. If we fail at this task, then every other government initiative loses its importance. Schools are less effective, fewer businesses can succeed, and home values plummet.
As law enforcement officials, we have the responsibility to stop—and reverse—the surge in violent crime that has taken place over these last two years. And under President Trump’s direction, this Department of Justice will do its part.
To that end, I have directed our federal prosecutors to work closely with our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, and local levels to take violent criminals off our streets.
We are going to dismantle the transnational cartels, drug traffickers and gangs that bring violence and death to communities like Philadelphia.
This Department is especially focused on eradicating the threat posed by MS-13.
Their motto is “kill, rape, control.” And that is what they do every day.
They recruit new members in our schools—our high schools, our middle schools, and even our elementary schools.
As a result of these recruitment efforts, it is estimated that MS-13 now has 10,000 members across 40 U.S. states. And the more they recruit, the more damage they do.
This gang is a threat right here in Pennsylvania.
In recent months, four MS-13 gang members have been arrested in Pennsylvania in connection with the brutal murders of 21-year old Christian Rivas and of 15-year old Damaris Reyes Rivas.
But we have a motto too. Justice for victims and consequences for criminals. And we will eradicate this threat. It will not be easy, but I have complete faith in our prosecutors and our law enforcement at every level. MS-13’s days are numbered.
But that will require all of us to work together. To take MS-13 off our streets, we need cooperation between law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels.
Unfortunately, this cooperation has been impeded by the policies of some cities and states. Some jurisdictions in this country refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and turn over illegal aliens who commit crimes—even MS-13 gang members.
These policies are often called “sanctuary” policies.
But they are giving sanctuary not to their law-abiding residents; they are giving sanctuary to criminals.
It saddens me to say that one of those jurisdictions is Philadelphia.
I am especially saddened for the residents of Philadelphia who have been victimized as a result of these policies.
That includes the young victim of an illegal alien who was released from local custody here in Philadelphia. He had been previously deported and re-entered this country was slated to be removed by ICE officers in 2015, but Philadelphia’s policies prevented police from honoring ICE’s detainer request for him, either. He was released and in August of last year, he was charged with raping a child.
And then there was Jose Palermo-Ramirez, who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 7 year old girl. Because of these policies, officials were not allowed to turn him over for deportation either. This just isn’t right.
I recently met with a number of families who had loved ones killed by illegal aliens. I met with one man from California, Juan Pina, whose 14-year old daughter Christy was raped, murdered, and left in a field. Christy Sue was not the first American girl this man is alleged to have raped and murdered; neither was she the second.
This man was arrested, released, and went back and forth from Mexico twice before Christy Sue was killed. She should still be alive today.
Now I want to be clear about this: local police are not the problem. I know that you want to help. The problem is the policies that tie your hands.
That makes all of us—and especially police officers—less safe.
Now most cities and states do not have these “sanctuary” policies—because the vast majority of the American people are opposed to these policies.
According to one poll, 80 percent of the public believes that cities should turn over criminal illegal aliens to immigration officials.
I urge the city of Philadelphia and every “sanctuary” jurisdiction to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their residents by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement and to re-think these policies. If we’re going to stop the rise of violent crime, then we have to work together.
The American people want and deserve a lawful immigration system that keeps us safe and serves our national interest. This expectation is fair; it is reasonable, and it is our duty to meet it.
Lastly, we know that drugs and crime go hand-in-hand. Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun.
And drug trafficking kills. And as you all know well, more than 50,000 people in this country died of drug overdoses in 2015.
Preliminary numbers indicate 2016 may hit 60,000. We have never seen numbers like this and all of us must redouble our efforts to combat this plague.
Last week, we announced the indictments of over 400 defendants as part of the annual Health Care Fraud Take Down. 120 of those involved opioid-related drug fraud and nearly 50 were doctors. Some of these frauds involved massive amounts of drugs.
And yesterday, we announced the seizure and take down of AlphaBay— the largest dark net marketplace takedown in history. This site had been responsible for countless synthetic opioid overdoses, including the tragic death of a 13 year old in Utah.
I’m convinced this is a winnable war. We will make these cases a priority and we will save lives.
Here is the point: This Department of Justice will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness or crime. We will work to strengthen our partnerships with you—law enforcement on the front lines.
You are ultimately the most effective resources that we as a country have in this effort. You have a tough job, but it’s a job worth doing.
Many of you are working in the same neighborhoods where you grew up. You know what’s at stake. You know that the safety and peace of mind of all of us depends on you.
But you can also know this: you have our thanks and this Department of Justice will always have your back.