2:17 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: A lot of power around this table. It’s very impressive. I am honored to be joined today by top law enforcement officials, members of Congress, Secretary Nielsen, Attorney General Sessions, to discuss the threat of the very lawless, in many cases, sanctuary cities. They’re causing a lot of problems for this country.
Sanctuary cities release thousands of criminal aliens out of our prisons and jails and back into our communities. They go into those sanctuary cities when they see them; they go there because they feel they’re safe. And in many cases, they are very bad actors. We have gang members; we have predators, rapists, killers. A lot of bad people.
To underscore the scope of that threat we face, last year alone, ICE arrested illegal immigrants with 48,000 charges or convictions for assault; 11,000 for sex crimes; 1,800 for killing people and other homicide-related offenses. And we have offenses that are so great we’re not even going to talk about them right now. They are so great.
Last September, an illegal immigrant was arrested by San Francisco Police for spousal abuse. ICE filed a detainer on the individual, but the detainer was denied and the alien was released. Less than 10 days later, the same illegal immigrant was arrested for murder. Many cases like that.
In another case, an alleged illegal gang member was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department more than 10 times between 2013 and 2017 for charges including domestic battery, assault, theft, and rape. But San Francisco refused to cooperate with ICE. You know that very well, don’t you, Tom? You have a lot of problems with that. And he kept getting released. Over and over again, he was released. Sanctuary cities and states like California put innocent Americans at the mercy of hardened criminals, hardened murderers, in many cases.
Yet House and Senate Democrats voted nearly unanimously in favor of sanctuary cities. Explain that. We’re looking to have safe cities, folks. Safe cities. They’re also blocking the bed space we need on the omnibus to stop catch and release. Catch and release. We catch a killer, we have to release him. We need the extra beds so that we don’t have to release him. Bed space is very important. It’s being negotiated right now.
Democrats’ priority is to protect criminals, not to do what’s right for our country. My priority and the priority of my administration is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States.
So we have tremendous people around this table, people that know what’s happening, know what’s going on.
And maybe, Tom, I’d like to start with you. You could say a few words quickly, and we’ll go around the table.
Thank you very much.
ACTING DIRECTOR HOMAN: Thanks for inviting me to this important discussion. And I’m proud to represent the 20,000 American heroes that work at ICE.
As many of you know, ICE just recently conducted a series of plans targeting enforcement operations in California in jurisdictions that no longer cooperate with federal law enforcement officers thanks to a statewide sanctuary policy. To meet our mission, we conduct operations like this across the country every day. They are based on intelligence-driven leads.
So let me be clear: There are no raids, there are no sweeps. Everybody we arrest is a targeted enforcement operation. We know exactly who we’re going to arrest and exactly where we’re going to find them, most of the time.
In fiscal year 2017, for example, for those people that say we don’t prioritize re-arrest, 81 percent of all aliens we arrested in California last year were convicted criminals. We also prioritize fugitives and aliens who have illegally reentered the United States, which is a felony by the mere fact of reentering after being formally removed.
But let me be clear: As I’ve said many times, it’s a crime to enter this state — enter the United States illegally. It’s under the Title 8 code. And ICE officers shouldn’t be condemned because they’re upholding their sworn oath and enforcing the laws that Congress enacted.
We are told, on one hand, to focus our efforts on criminals. But those same folks that want us to focus on criminals don’t let us in the county jail. It just defies logic: Concentrate on criminals, but don’t come into our county jail.
As a result, many of my officers are forced to make arrests out in this community. Ask any law enforcement officer — and we got many sitting around this table — arresting a public safety threat on his turf, where he has access to weapons, is a significant danger to men and women of ICE and other law enforcement officers.
Many of our local law enforcement officers — our partners in California — some at this table, also oppose the dangerous policies of sanctuary — policies imposed by Sacramento, including the California State Sherriff’s Association. They have disagreed with the governor. They have come out with a press statement saying they’re not allowed to communicate with ICE the way they want to, and they have to release public safety threats out into the public, which they don’t want to do.
Following passage of SB-54, they issued a statement. Let me quote them. This comes from the California State Sherriff’s Association: “This legislation contains significant liabilities that restrict communications with federal law enforcement about the release of wanted, undocumented criminals from our jails, including known gang members, repeat drunk drivers, persons who assault peace officers, serial thieves, and abusers and other serious offenders.”
As we know, criminals — all you got to do is Google. The recidivism rate now in California is over 50 percent. Over half these people that get released will reoffend the first year.
Let me talk about a couple of recent examples. What just happened in Northern California and Oakland. A law enforcement agency in Merced County, California arrested a Mexican national for robbery and multiple weapons violations, including carrying a concealed weapon, and willful discharge of a firearm and gross negligence. This alien was previously released from local custody back into the community in November 2017, following his arrest for conspiracy to commit crime and vandalism. Despite the fact we issued a detainer, he was released.
He is one of the many public safety threats we targeted during the most recent operation in Northern California that we weren’t able to locate.
Since our operation in San Francisco and Oakland, three of the people we couldn’t locate have since reoffended. The one person I just talked about was just arrested for robbery and multiple weapons violations.
Another person we just arrested that we failed to locate in the open area was just arrested for his third DUI. Third DUI. So if he’s getting arrested three times, how many times has he committed this crime? That is a public safety threat. He also has been convicted for false imprisonment and battery of spouse. But we couldn’t locate him during this latest operation. Again, released from a jail.
And there’s a third targeted criminal that we attempted to arrest in San Francisco area, and he just got rearrested for corporeal injury of a spouse.
There’s two follow-up points I’d like to make. First, these policies are being used by criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America. It’s a selling tactic for them to get the smuggled aliens to a sanctuary jurisdiction, where even local law enforcement won’t cooperate with ICE, thereby bankrolling the very criminal organizations that smuggle these aliens, or bankrolling the very criminal organizations that have killed Border Patrol agents and special agents.
Further, sanctuary laws help employers to exploit illicit — illegal workers with low wages and poor working conditions. I want to be clear on sanctuary policies. ICE isn’t asking local law enforcement to be ICE officers. We don’t want them out making vehicle stops, asking immigration questions.
What we want them to do is give federal law enforcement officers unfettered access to a county jail to take custody of somebody that’s in the country illegally and yet commit another crime against a citizen of this country. It’s safer for the officers; it’s safer for the community. These people go out and reoffend in the very communities they live, which is immigrant communities. Sanctuary cities do not protect the immigrant community. They put them in harm’s way.
Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job you’ve done, Tom. Not easy, but a great job.
ACTING DIRECTOR HOMAN: I appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: It could be a lot easier if we had laws that allowed you — like, we get rid of catch and release and some of the others. That would make your job a lot easier wouldn’t it?
ACTING DIRECTOR HOMAN: It certainly would.
THE PRESIDENT: So, Mary Ann, we’ve been friends for a long time.
MS. MENDOZA: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: How’s it going?
MS. MENDOZA: It’s going good.
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe just say a few words?
MS. MENDOZA: My son, Sergeant Brandon Mendoza, was killed in 2014 by a repeat illegal alien criminal who had been shown leniency in the state of Colorado, and released back out onto our streets.
It’s just — it’s a common thing, and I — you know, some thoughts have come over my — in my head the last few days. This is actually a mass murder happening in the United States by illegal aliens killing American citizens. Over 63,000 Americans have been killed since 9/11 by illegal aliens. It’s a crime spree that is being left unchecked, and these sanctuary city officials — state and city officials — they’re putting American lives into harm every single day. And we have become collateral damage to their personal agendas, and it’s got to be stopped.
And FAIR is coming out with a new report here in the next few days. A year and a half ago, there were 300 sanctuary cities, and now there are 600. And so it’s an increasing problem, and there’s more and more city and state officials that are thumbing their nose at federal law.
And so my big question today is: What are your plans to defund these sanctuary cities, making them adhere to federal law? And what actions will be taken against these defiant city and state officials?
THE PRESIDENT: I got it, Mary. We’re with you. I never heard the number 63,000 people killed by illegal immigrants. Is that a known figure? Is that an acknowledged —
MS. MENDOZA: It’s an average of 12 Americans a day, which is how many are killed in the United States.
THE PRESIDENT: Sixty-three thousand people?
MS. MENDOZA: Since 9/11.
THE PRESIDENT: Since 9/11? Boy. That is some number. I’ve never heard that number before. That’s an incredible number. Thank you, Mary Ann. Appreciate it very much.
MS. MENDOZA: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
OFFICER GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. President, for having us here. I want to thank you and the ATF for giving us the assistance we’ve needed in Chicago. We certainly have a problem.
My 17,000 members that I represent as the FOP president are not concerned with somebody coming here for a better life. But they certainly are concerned with somebody who are coming here to be habitual criminal offenders that their entire career is set up to undermine our legal system and to put officers in harm’s way, whether they’re federal officers or local officers.
And, certainly, I appreciate all the help that you have been giving with Attorney General Sessions, as well. Our members are out there every day, and Chicago is a dangerous place. And, certainly, we would like to be a little closer with our federal authorities.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And, frankly, what’s happening in Chicago is ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It should never happen.
SHERIFF JONES: Good afternoon, Mr. President. Thank you for inviting me. Obviously, I’m at ground zero for the sanctuary state for California. You know, there’s really two different issues that the sanctuary state addresses. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that California law enforcement, we don’t do immigration enforcement in the communities. We want people to have the comfort and confidence to call us if they need help. That’s our primary mission. Although, that’s the way it’s portrayed, that we work arm-in-arm in the communities. We just don’t do that. So that piece of it really doesn’t affect law enforcement in California.
But the other piece to which Director Homan spoke is of critical importance to all of law enforcement, poignantly so for the sheriffs because we have corrections. And although we have a large jail system and we have embedded ICE agents in our jail, so very few people are able to slip through the cracks, most jails are not that fortunate. And there are spectacular failures every single day around California and, I’m sure beyond, of folks that ICE wants as part of their priority — criminals that are going to go out and at a known recidivism rate victimize other folks — that we’re unable to capture, apprehend, and keep detained for deportation.
I also have the unfortunate distinction of having one of my officers killed — Danny Oliver. He also killed Detective Mike Davis in adjacent Placer County, and shot a third officer. He’s been convicted and faces the death penalty. But he had been removed four times and deported twice before he was allowed to come back and commit these crimes. So that really started by personal journey and passion towards immigration enforcement.
So it’s not about the community enforcement for us. When I say “us,” it’s California law enforcement. It is absolutely about cooperating with our federal partners to keep our communities safe, which we’re less able to do now.
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely right, Scott. Thank you very much.
MS. RUTLEDGE: Thank you, Mr. President. What an honor it is to be here with the other members of our law enforcement, as well as leaders, including Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas.
It’s important, as the chief legal officer of Arkansas, to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. And these sanctuary cities are just defying the rule of law. They’re putting citizens across the United States at risk for those who have broken the law. Too often, people want to say that illegal immigrants that — it’s gender, it’s race, it’s this. No, it’s just illegal because it’s a crime. And that’s individuals that we are dealing with have committed — have broken the law in some form or fashion.
And as law enforcement, it’s imperative that we shut down and work together to shut down this liberal chaos that’s being created. We have these liberal cabals creating, sort of, unconstitutional chaos across the country.
And my friend, Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, they’ve done some great things —
THE PRESIDENT: Done a great job.
MS. RUTLEDGE: — in Texas. And it’s really taken all of us working together, law enforcement at all levels, because America is the ultimate sanctuary, and we have to protect that. But it is not a cesspool for criminals to come and hide among our masses. And, unfortunately, these sanctuary cities create dangers for everyone across the country, because they don’t just stay in those cities; they travel across and they become little islands across the United States for these criminals.
And so I’m hoping that all of us can work together to combat this problem, but really to make sure that these public officials uphold the rule of law.
So, thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Great job this morning, too. I watched you.
MS. RUTLEDGE: Thank you. Appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck.
MR. CANTERBURY: Mr. President, I’m here representing 330,000 of America’s law enforcement officers, including a number of federal officers. And we swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and then cities and counties around the country — or states — declare themselves a sanctuary city, forcing a police officer to basically disobey his oath, under threat of criminal penalty or loss of employment. And we shouldn’t be put in that position.
You know, we have asked Congress to do something with the immigration law. We were very concerned about losing funding in law enforcement. But we have now reached a point where we realize that unless we hit cities in the pocketbook, we’re not going to stop this sanctuary city problem.
So as of today, we fully support whatever actions you, as the President, take on sanctuary cities. Our members are being put in harm’s way every day. A police officer shouldn’t be in trouble for cooperating with our federal partners.
This whole system works on cooperation. There are not enough federal officers, or state and local officers to deal with this problem alone. So we’re here to let you know that we support you. We want our officers taken out of the middle. Let them enforce the law — the law of this country. And criminal aliens should be deported or jailed.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Chuck.
MR. CANTERBURY: And we support you.
THE PRESIDENT: And you’re a 100 percent right. Thank you very much.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: Thank you, Mr. President. I just want to say, first, if I could recognize my home town of Austin and the bombings. Probably the largest — biggest investigation since the Boston bombings. I want to thank you for sending 500 federal agents to my hometown of Austin, Texas to find this perpetrator and bring him to justice.
And, General, thank you for your efforts on (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: What is the word as of this moment? What’s happening?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: Five bombings. As I understand, the last one — the mail package, I think, will lead to more evidence, hopefully fingerprints and surveillance photos. And we can finally take him down. This is terrorizing the city of Austin right now. And I want to thank you for all the federal efforts you put to bear to stop this horrific event.
And let me just — if I could just step back. I was a federal prosecutor for a long time. And after 9/11, as Jeff knows, we formed these things called the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. It was to bring federal, state, and local law enforcement together.
What I see sanctuary cities doing is basically tearing down that structure, that paradigm that’s worked so well after 9/11. And one thing we did as federal prosecutors, working with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, and the FBI, and everybody involved — if we couldn’t charge them on a terrorism case, we’d charge them on an immigration case. If we couldn’t get them out of the country or put them in jail behind bars for material support, we deported them under immigration charges.
What I see in California is a breakdown of the system. I wrote an op-ed in the National Review, saying, California is building the wrong wall because California is building a wall between federal law enforcement and local law enforcement. They cannot even work these cases on the Joint Terrorism Task Forces.
So I would submit, in addition to criminal aliens killing innocent civilians, as Director Homan and Mary Ann talked about, this is also a national security issue, in my judgment. Bob Goodlatte, and I, as you know, we’re working on passing a bill that will defund sanctuary cities. As the state of Texas, Ken Paxton — you all have done so well, unlike California. And you’ll talk about that.
And finally, for me, to see criminal aliens being released on the streets, to see local law enforcement defy an ICE detainer and let these dangerous criminals on the streets to commit murder — and we’ve seen many cases of this — in my judgement, they have blood on their hands.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with you 100 percent, Michael. Thank you. It’s a great job you’re doing, too.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership on this issue. From day one, before you became President, you talked about this issue. And what is happening today is a knife in the heart of the partnerships and cooperative relationships between our state and local officers. And Tom’s people are out on the street, placing their lives in greater danger, making their job much more difficult. And we cannot accept it, and we’ve got to do something about it.
I would just say that the issue we’re dealing with is not a small manner. It’s something that’s fundamentally got to be addressed. What they’re doing is shocking. The policies are ruptured. The partnerships necessary for public safety, they are irrational. They make no sense. They’re radical. Really, at their fundamental basis, it’s a radical policy that they’re executing.
At bottom, these policies of these sanctuary jurisdictions call for open borders. It is an affront to the fundamental federal immigration law in America. Under their version — their vision, an individual who crosses the border illegally on Monday, gets to Chicago on Wednesday, can never be deported. They are sanctuaried in their cities. Even if the purpose of the trip was to bring fentanyl or heroin to Chicago, they protect them from deportation.
When sanctuary cities release persons they’ve incarcerated for criminal offenses, they take the view that their officers should not even tell the ICE officers that this has happened. That’s what they’re doing. They won’t tell when they’re being released, for heaven sakes, so that the federal law can be executed. They release criminal aliens onto the streets, leaving it to ICE to have to hunt them down instead of safely picking them up in the jail.
It’s unacceptable. These are huge matters. The federal and state law enforcement relationships with those jurisdictions can never be the same when this continues to place our officers at risk and their own citizens at risk.
So we’re not going to sweep it under the rug. This Department of Justice is going to back Kirstjen, and Homeland Security, and Tom and his ICE officers fully and totally. The federal law is the supreme law of the land. It’s been made clear by the Supreme Court that the federal government has immigration responsibility. And we’re going to do our part, and we expect the cities and counties, if they’re going to be partners with us, to participate with us.
Mr. President, thank you for your leadership on this. And I believe the American people’s voices will be heard, and we’re going to change the mentality of these sanctuary jurisdictions.
THE PRESIDENT: Great. Thank you very much.
SENATOR COTTON: Mr. President, thank you for convening this very important roundtable about sanctuary cities. I have to say, I think every city should be a sanctuary; it should be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens so they can live and travel there, and know that they will not be subjected to violence and even death at the hands of criminal aliens.
Where was the sanctuary for the Mendoza family? Where was the sanctuary for Kate Steinle’s family? Where is the sanctuary for these peace officers and their men and women who are out there enforcing the law every single day?
I want to commend what Attorney General Sessions has done to file lawsuits against these cities — they’re not sanctuary cities; they are outlaw cities — to establish the supremacy of federal law on immigration, which is entrusted to the federal government by the Constitution.
And I want to commend Secretary Nielsen and Director Homan, and all the men and women at the Department of Homeland Security for enforcing the law as it’s written, and say it is past time for the Congress to give the administration the tools it needs to ensure that we are able to stop these violent criminal aliens from wrecking any more American lives.
THE PRESIDENT: So right. Thank you very much, Tom. Appreciate it.
MR. PAXTON: Mr. President, thank you for inviting me. Literally before I came in here, I called Chief Manley. He’s the Austin PD. Obviously, my office is involved in this bombing issue. And I asked him, “Do you have the resources that you need to deal with this issue?” And he wanted me to tell you — he wanted me to thank you, because, as Congressman McCaul said, 400 FBI agents, 100 ATF officers. He said, “We have the resources. We are going to find this evil person.” So thank you for providing those resources. Obviously, it’s creating a huge issue for the Austin area.
I was in the Texas legislature for 12 years; we spent hundreds of millions of dollars on border security. And the reason we did that is because the federal government wouldn’t do it. And we didn’t have the authority to do everything we needed, so we are grateful for this administration’s efforts to finally start addressing an issue that is so affecting our state.
You know, we also ordered our state police to keep statistics on crime as it related to illegals. I believe we’re the only state that does that. We have over 600,000 crimes committed by illegals since 2011. There are 70,000 assaults, 6,000 sexual assaults. There have been 1,200 people killed. Those are 1,200 families affected by illegals who should not have been here.
So I can tell you that the people of Texas are grateful for what you’re doing. It has had the greatest impact of any administration I’ve ever seen on illegal immigration, so we’re grateful for that.
You also might have noticed we had our own sanctuary city fight. Our legislature, in the last session, passed a sanctuary city bill which did two things. One, it allowed law enforcement to ask about immigration status. It did not require — it also required that elected officials cooperate with law enforcement and with the federal officials when they are holding criminals. There are penalties associated with that — civil. You can be removed from office, and you can be charged with a crime. And so we take this very seriously.
We passed it, our governor signed it, and we were sued by many of our cities, from Austin to Houston to El Paso. In my opinion, ridiculous. Because if you think of the result of that, what they are defending are people who have committed crimes who should not be in this country.
And so I’d also like to tell you today — General Sessions, I appreciate your lawsuit as it relates to sanctuary cities, with California. We’re going to be filing an amicus with many states. Leslie and I are working on this now. So we’ll be participating —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MR. PAXTON: — to support your efforts.
So thank you. My people, border people appreciate what you’re doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Texas has really been at the forefront. They’ve done a great job. Your governor has done an incredible job, as have you. And we appreciate it very much, Ken.
MR. PAXTON: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Terrific job.
MR. PAXTON: Appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: Pat.
SENATOR TOOMEY: Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership on this issue. And thanks to all the law enforcement folks across the country who keep us safe, as well as here at the meeting today.
Mr. President, the idea that certain municipalities and jurisdictions in the United States confer a special legal protection on violent criminals because they came here illegally, that is a breed of madness that the vast majority of my constituents —
THE PRESIDENT: It is rather incredible.
SENATOR TOOMEY: — they just cannot understand and cannot support.
In fact, sanctuary cities are not pro-immigrant communities, as has been pointed out. Legal immigrants in this country often live amongst people who are here illegally, and their lives are threatened by this policy.
It seems to me there’s two things we need to do here, Mr. President. And I’ve introduced legislation that solves this problem. I do think it takes a legislative solution to do this comprehensively. And what my legislation does is it ensures that a municipality cooperating with the federal government would not be exposed to legal liability. Any legal liability belongs at the federal level, and my legislation would clarify that. But if a municipality nevertheless chooses to be a sanctuary city, they would have to forgo very substantial amounts of federal funds. Because after all, they’re endangering all of us. I think that’s very reasonable.
We’ve had two votes on the Senate floor on my legislation. Both times we had bipartisan majorities, but neither time were we able to get to 60 votes. So I’ll be very grateful for whatever support you could provide to get us there.
THE PRESIDENT: Are you saying that you don’t like the filibuster rule, by any chance? (Laughter.) Is that what you’re trying to tell us?
SENATOR TOOMEY: It is very frustrating at times.
THE PRESIDENT: It is, indeed. Isn’t it?
SENATOR TOOMEY: Yes, it is.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s another one that’s hard to believe. All right, thank you very much, Pat. Appreciate it.
REPRESENTATIVE MEADOWS: Mr. President, thank you for your leadership. Obviously, we’re around this table perhaps for the first time ever, under a sitting President, to talk about an issue that we should have talked about a long time ago. So I want to say thank you.
We also need to bring this home. You know, during the last Congress, we had statistics that would suggest that 196 murderers were released back into our communities; 216 kidnappers were released back into our communities.
So when we talk about a sanctuary city, you know, it’s all about making sure that we have a safe city.
And so, right now, you’re Secretary can’t do her job because we’ve got state and local law enforcement officers who are choosing to ignore a federal law. And some 60,000-plus people are in jail right now that are here illegally that she could make a determination on, but there’s not a coordination.
So here’s what we need to do: It is time that we tell mayors and governors who want to establish national policy, that if they want do that, put their name on the ballot and run for President. It is time that we allow the federal policy and the dollars that go along with that to be controlled right here.
So I call for us to pull off all the funding for these sanctuary cities, and if not, make sure that we change the criteria for grants, where we allow those law enforcement officers, who are willing to work with our federal partners, to benefit at their loss.
And I thank you for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mark. You’re right, 100 percent.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Mr. President, good to see you. Thank you for the leadership on this issue. And as someone who represents Arizona, Mrs. Mendoza and her family and their loss is very real to us.
Now, we don’t have any sanctuary cities in Arizona, but we’re right next door to California. And as we saw, in the loss of Sergeant Mendoza, it’s the policies of other states and other cities that are letting these criminals go that then impact the rest of us.
This is clearly a federal government responsibility. There’s a lot of things that happen around here — the federal government overreaches — but in this case, this is clearly what the federal government should be doing. And for them to be thumbing their nose at law and order, and protecting citizens, is so dangerous and a travesty.
As we look in Arizona, we often are looking into the dangers in the southern border. But if these dangerous policies continue out of California, we might need to build a wall between California and Arizona, as well, to keep these dangerous criminals out of our state. (Laughter.)
I mean, it’s — but seriously, they cannot just provide sanctuary for these criminals and think that it’s only impacting California dangerously. It impacts the rest of us, because these criminals will move quickly to other jurisdictions.
We have, for example, MS-13 gang members that often are arrested in Arizona that have come from California — with previous criminal records — and other sanctuary cities and states. So this is a very serious public safety issue, and I’m glad you’re leading on it. And thanks for the opportunity to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Martha. Good job. You’ve been doing really well too, by the way.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s the word.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s very good.
SHERIFF CONWAY: I’m Butch Conway, the Gwinnett County, Georgia sheriff. We’ve cooperated with our partners with immigration in the 20-plus years I’ve been sheriff.
We started a 287(g) program with ICE in 2010. Since that time, we’ve interviewed more than 47,000 inmates as they came into our jail, and identified more than 17,000 as being illegal aliens.
We’ll continue working with ICE, and we certainly appreciate everything that you folks are doing for us. We need the help.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Butch. Appreciate it. We’ll get there.
SHERIFF SMITH: Thank you, Mr. President, and Attorney General Sessions, as well as the rest of your staff. We appreciate all the efforts you’re doing to restore the rule of law.
As sheriffs, we inherently understand that that first role of government is to protect lives, liberty, and property. Sheriffs remain on the front line of that fight.
As you’re aware, the city of Denver, under its mayor, has created sanctuary policies. And somehow out of that, we’ve seen some of these illegal aliens. Recently, an individual by the name of Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda, who was released because of the way these pressures work on the deputies within the sheriff’s office — because that sheriff is appointed by the mayor — we see these kind of travesties of justice occur. So we know what those results are going to be.
We appreciate Mr. Homan and his staff working with us to get through the legal hurdles on the contracts that sheriffs need to work with those detainers.
I would offer — another important piece would be to indemnify sheriffs when they’re sued by the ACLU. We are sued by the ACLU on a daily basis, and we’re overwhelmed. So certainly, when those things go sideways, it would be helpful to have the federal resources behind us.
And just to give you an idea, Mr. President, of how far this has gone: ACLU has gone around the sheriffs. And in my jurisdiction, they’re pressuring the judges. I had one activist judge who had the gall to hang a “No ICE Agent” sign on the door to her courtroom. Now, I’ve reminded that judge that the role of the sheriff is to handle the courthouse. Every citizen is allowed in the courtroom. ICE agents will continue to be assisted in our jurisdiction as their going about their duties. Whether it’s in a courthouse or in our jails, we are going to continue to work with our federal partners the same as we do with all other federal law enforcement.
And again, this leadership is greatly appreciated. The deputies in Colorado and the deputies across this country are safer for the work that you’re doing here. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Justin.
Secretary, you’re working hard.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: And we’re making a lot of progress.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: We are.
THE PRESIDENT: But we’re going to make a lot more in a very short period of time. Go ahead.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: We are. I just — I want to, as always, thank you for your leadership, and I want to thank all the state and local law enforcement around the table. You truly are on the front lines. We owe you a debt of gratitude and we greatly appreciate everything you do each day.
I think this has been well said. These are not sanctuaries for criminals. It was an original idea to protect illegal immigrants who were victims. That idea has been contorted. It’s been perverted. And now what we have are sanctuaries for criminals. That’s all it is. It’s a sanctuary for criminals.
So instead of encouraging law enforcement to work with state and locals, and work with our federal partners, we have elected officials pitting them against each other. They’re brothers sisters, and trying to protect our communities and our country. They’re pitting them against each other rather than looking towards the public good.
We’ve talked about the community risk. We’ve talked about the risk to our local and federal law officials trying to do their jobs. And we’ve also talked about the difficulties with the rule of law. This flies right in the face of rule of law, which is what our country is founded on.
So I think I began this job concerned. Then I was, sort of, confused to how anyone could advocate for this. And now I’m horrified. I mean, this is a very real issue. Lives are at stake. Lives are being taken each day. We must work together.
I thank the Attorney General and the Department of Justice for everything you’re doing with the lawsuits. And I certainly thank all the members of Congress around this table who are working so hard to address this through our legal system. And I look forward to continuing to work with you.
But we can’t thank you enough for supporting DHS and the men and women who are trying to keep our country secure every day. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary.
We’re making a lot of progress and we’re going to go at it even faster clip. We’re working very hard and spending a lot of money. Unfortunately, we have to spend the money, but we are moving along. We’re working on federal legislation.
Pat, you’re working. I know Mark, you’re working very hard on this. And Tom is one of the leaders. This is a real problem. So we very much appreciate it. Michael, also, your professionalism has been incredible during this period of time. So we really get it.
And, Jeff, I will say, the level of strength of the Justice Department on this issue and on other border issues has been fantastic. So we appreciate it very much.
We’re going to win it. It should be easy, but it’s not. Nothing is easy. This should be easy. Why it’s difficult? Because it’s almost like common sense. Sometimes you understand, and usually, when you have an opponent, you understand the other side. You know, you get it. You may disagree but you get it.
This is something I don’t think anybody in this room can even understand when it comes to the other side. It’s so basic. It’s called law and order and safety. And we’re going to have it in our country.
So I want to thank everybody around the table. Very much appreciate it. And we will win on this issue. Sanctuary cities are dangerous. And we’re going to take care of the problem. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
2:55 P.M. EDT