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Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Sanctuary Cities With Law Enforcement Officials

March 20, 2018

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 offensive. 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?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas D. Homan. Yes.

The President. 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 planned, targeted 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.

[Acting Director Homan continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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 the citizens 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.

Mesa, AZ, resident Mary Ann 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 action will be taken against these defiant city and State officials?

The President. I've 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.

Chicago, IL, Police Officer Kevin W. 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.


Sacramento, CA, County Sheriff Scott R. 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.

[Sheriff Jones continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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. Right. Absolutely right, Scott. Thank you very much.

Leslie? Arkansas State Attorney General Leslie C. 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.

[Ms. Rutledge continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

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.

Fraternal Order of Police National President K. Charles Canterbury, Jr. 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.

[Mr. Canterbury continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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, Mr. President.

The President. And you're a hundred-percent right. Thank you very much.


Representative Michael T. 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?

Rep. 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. I—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.

[Rep. McCaul continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And finally, I just—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 a hundred percent, Michael. Thank you. It's a great job you're doing, too.


Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III. 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.

[Attorney General Sessions continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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 we—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 Thomas B. 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.

[Sen. Cotton continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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.


Texas State Attorney General Warren K. Paxton, Jr. 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.

[Mr. Paxton continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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 Patrick J. 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.

Sen. Toomey. ——they just cannot understand and cannot support.

In fact, sanctuary cities are not proimmigrant 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.

[Sen. Toomey continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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?

Sen. Toomey. It is very frustrating at times.

The President. It is, indeed. Isn't it?

Sen. 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 Mark R. 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.

[Rep. Meadows continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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, a hundred percent.


Representative Martha E. 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.

[Rep. McSally continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

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.

Rep. McSally. Thank you.

The President. That's the word.

Rep. McSally. Yes, sir.

The President. That's very good.


Gwinnett County, GA, Sheriff R.L. "Butch" 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.


Larimer County, CO, Sheriff Justin E. 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.

[Sheriff Smith continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

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 of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. 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, as has been well said, these are not sanctuaries for criminals. The—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.

[Secretary Nielsen continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

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 from 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, Ken. 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.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Gregory W. Abbott of Texas.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Sanctuary Cities With Law Enforcement Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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