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Spicer Says Chicago's Gang Violence 'Inextricably Linked' To Sanctuary City Status

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 31, 2017 8:51PM

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer conducts the daily press briefing at the White House March 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Update 4:20 p.m.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer doubled down Friday on a sentiment President Donald Trump last shared in February—the accusation (unsupported by research) that violence in Chicago is caused by undocumented immigrants.

Through the magic of Skype, CBS2’s Derrick Blakley asked Spicer if President Donald Trump would cut off some $12 million a year Chicago receives in law enforcement assistance from the federal government due to its status as a sanctuary city. Suggesting that violence in Chicago and its status as a sanctuary city are “inextricably linked,” Spicer said Trump has been clear from the beginning he would cut off federal funding for Chicago.

“I think it would be interesting to want to send more money to a city that is allowing people to come into the country who are breaking the law who in many cases are committing crimes, members of gangs,” said Spicer. “You can’t be a sanctuary city and at the same time seem to pretend or express concern about law enforcement or ask for more money when probably a number of the funds you’re using in the first place are going to law enforcement to handle a situation that you’ve created for yourself.”

Trump made similar (and also, similarly unverifiable) comments in February at a conference of police chiefs. “You look at Chicago, and you look at other places,“ said Trump. “So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.”

But while the White House seems to be painting Chicago as a lawless dystopian hellscape, due in part to its status as a sanctuary city, there actual facts out there suggesting that immigrants are in fact, less likely to commit crimes than native born citizens. According to a January story by the New York Times, available evidence does not support the theory that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.

“There’s no way I can mess with the numbers to get a different conclusion,” Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst from the CATO Institute told the Times.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle shared that sentiment when Trump made his comments in February.

“I don’t know anyone in Chicago who believes that,” Preckwinkle told CBS. “Whether we are talking about African American or Latino neighborhoods, we are not talking about illegal immigrants. We are talking about our native born sons and daughters.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office and the Chicago Police Department did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication, but we’ll update if they do.

A spokesperson for the Mayor's office blasted the Trump administration's claims:

"The comments trying to tie violence in Philadelphia and Chicago to immigration show a complete lack of understanding, and are not backed up by facts or crime data here or in other major cities," said Adam Collins in an email to Chicagoist. "If they cared as much about public safety as they claim they would stop playing politics with the issue and their support for public safety wouldn't come with strings attached."

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said that Chicago's welcoming policies are meant to help immigrants access the criminal justice system, and that undoing Chicago's status as a sanctuary city would be unconstitutional.

"Cities like Chicago have crafted welcoming policies precisely so that immigrants can come forward to report crimes and go after those who are harming the community, and so that the criminal justice system can run its course," said Fred Tsao, senior policy council for ICIRR. "Also, any attempt to force Chicago to undo its welcoming policies by threatening federal grants is unconstitutional and will not withstand a court challenge."

Watch the full exchange between Spicer and Blakley (beginning at 3:07:42)