AG Sessions, Hancock spar over sanctuary cities

Author: Joey Bunch - June 8, 2018 - Updated: June 8, 2018

Sanctuary citiesThe March for Humanity was held in Philadelphia to show support for immigration and refugees in February. This week a judge said the Trump administration did not have the right to withhold federal grants from the city. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke of immigration in terms of cracking down on Mexican drug gangs and building a border wall Friday at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock pushed back soon after.

Taking to Facebook, Hancock brought up a court opinion on the matter unflattering to the administration that this week that the attorney general didn’t mention in his 34-minute address to the conservative gathering.

“If we’re going to end the drug crisis, we need to secure the border. And if we’re going to secure the border, we’ve got to build a wall,” Sessions told the crowd in the Mile High Ballroom of the Colorado Convention Center. “Build that wall.”

Sessions criticized cities such as Denver and Boulder that don’t cooperate the way he thinks they should with federal agents doing immigration enforcement, so-called “sanctuary cities.”

“In the Trump administration, we know whose side we’re on; we’re on the side of the police, law and order and the American people. And we back the blue, not the criminals,” he said pausing long for applause.

He added, “We needed to tell these politicians, ‘What is it that’s in your mind? What do you think you’re doing when you refuse to allow the deportation of a criminal in your city?'”

A short time after the remarks, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock posted on his Facebook page about the administration’s threat to withhold Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) jurisdictions such as Denver, which it deems sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.

JAG grants “support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system,” according to the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

“We told the Trump administration in 2017 that it was illegal for the federal government to force Denver to comply with the administration’s inhumane immigration agenda as a condition of receiving law enforcement grants,” Hancock wrote in the post.

Hancock pivoted to a Pennsylvania ruling that the Trump administration’s attempt to withhold JAG money from Philadelphia over sanctuary city allegations “violates statutory and constitutional law.”

“Denver needs its JAG grant monies too,” Hancock wrote. “It is time that the DOJ stop stalling these grants that help cities respond to gun violence and human trafficking and support victims of crime. With the Attorney General in town, we thought he’d hear us a little more clearly as he doesn’t seem to be listening from D.C.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.