LAS VEGAS — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday said the inclusion of Las Vegas on a list of so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities is being reviewed.
Sessions addressed Sin City’s situation in a speech on violent crime and immigration he delivered before a group of law enforcement officials in Las Vegas. His remarks, in which he singled out a few cities, came on the same day that a federal judge was set to hear arguments on the administration’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from an executive order targeting sanctuary cities.
“To take these gangs off the streets, we need cooperation between law enforcement at the federal, state and local level,” he said. “I understand that we have a great cooperative system here in Las Vegas.”
Sessions said the list was prepared before he became attorney general. He added that he isn’t sure Las Vegas inclusion was accurate and promised officials a “fair and quick response” to their inquiries.
Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, and other jurisdictions were singled out in a May 2016 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that found local policies or rules could interfere with providing information to immigration agents. The cities disagreed with that assessment, saying their rules comport with the specific section of federal law that bars municipalities from forcing local officials to keep certain information from federal immigration authorities.
The jurisdictions last week received a strongly worded statement from the department questioning whether they are responding honestly when asked whether they follow the law on sharing the immigration status of residents.
In response to the statement, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo sent more than 100 pages of documents he said demonstrate law enforcement officers in Las Vegas cooperate with immigration authorities. He noted that some jail officers are “deputized to carry out specific immigration officer duties” and are expected to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Las Vegas police Deputy Chief Richard Suey on Wednesday said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have picked up more than 320 people from the county jail since January. He said more than 160 people who have “detainers” are in the county’s custody while they clear their local charges.
Sessions urged sanctuary cities to review their policies, which he characterized as “excuses from politicians.”
Sessions, who has said marijuana is dangerous and changes by states should not be allowed, did not address the state’s legalization of recreational sales of the drug.
About 40 people protested against the Trump administration’s immigration policies outside the U.S. Attorney’s office where Sessions spoke.
Democratic members of Nevada’s congressional delegation and the American Civil Liberties Union criticized Sessions’ remarks.
“What we need is comprehensive immigration reform — not a draconian crackdown on families,” U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, whose district include the Las Vegas Strip, said in a statement.