Richard Ross's response to Jeff Sessions
A new chapter in the confrontation between Philadelphia and the Attorney General came last Friday when the Commissioner of Police questioned Jeff Sessions' statements against the city for its policy of providing shelter to immigrants.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Philadelphia last Friday. And his visit, instead of being a welcome memory for immigrant communities, became a new onslaught by the national government against undocumented aliens living in the city.
At a meeting with federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials in Philadelphia, Sessions said that the city's rising crime rates are directly related to the presence of undocumented immigrants.
Without making the slightest effort not to fall into generalizations or to present evidence to argue his claim, Sessions questioned the mayor's decision not to collaborate with the federal immigration authorities present in the city to share information on the status of immigrants who are being detained by the police.
The attorney general urged local authorities to "consider the harm they are doing to residents through policies that, instead of providing a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, are sheltering criminals."
One of the first to react to Sessions’ was Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, Richard Ross, who said that his department is not responsible for any issues related to the immigration status of the inhabitants of the city and he dismissed the Sessions’ comments stating that "regarding crime, our problem is not foreigners, but that our young people have no greater hopes for their future."
Ross was also concerned about the effects of declarations such as Sessions’ that instead of helping to create a safe environment for all, forces vulnerable immigrant communities, that are facing stigma and persecution, to decide not to report crimes of which they are victims.
Sessions' visit to Philadelphia came a couple of weeks after the city administration sent a letter to the Justice Department in response to a request to verify that it is complying with the provisions of the eighth title of U.S. Code 1373, (referring to communication and collaboration between government agencies and immigration and naturalization services).
In the letter, Sozi Pedro Tulante, City Solicitor, explained to the Department of Justice that the city does not violate any federal regulations because it can not share information about the immigration status of the inhabitants that are detained by the police because it is legally not obliged to trace this type of information. In fact, the City is impeded by the Fourth Amendment and by a couple of municipal ordinances aimed at facilitating access to public services and encouraging more friendly relations between the authorities and the different immigrant communities in the city.