Justice Department Issues Petty and Bigoted Attack on Philadelphia After Losing 'Sanctuary City' Case

The Justice Department on Thursday released a petty and vindictive statement, breaking with traditions of decorum and decency to attack Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney after the city won a victory in court in its battle to protect undocumented immigrants.

In the statement, which observers noted for its unusual tone, the department ridiculed Kenney for a video in which he celebrated the ruling protecting Philadelphia's "sanctuary city" status with a dance. The statement also erroneously smeared the undocumented immigrants in the city as dangerous criminals, even though the best evidence suggests undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than the rest of the population.

The statement read as follows:

Yesterday, the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia danced in jubilation over a court ruling that will allow him to continue to protect known and suspected criminal aliens in the City’s custody. These are individuals who have victimized the residents of the City he has sworn to protect. These are individuals like the violent criminal alien who was arrested in Philadelphia last year for forcing his girlfriend into a hot oven hut was never turned over to immigration authorities. The video is a sad and disturbing reminder that politicians like Mayor Kenney prioritize political gain over the law-abiding residents of their own cities and the safety of the law enforcement officers that try to protect them. The Department of Justice will continue to fight for the rule of law, and for the law abiding citizens of Philadelphia who fear victimization and reject the notion of protecting criminals.

As a sanctuary city, Philadelphia reserves the right not to turn over any potentially undocumented immigrants that may be held in its jails to immigration officers. In the statement above, the Justice Department implies that all these individuals are criminals who have "victimize" the residents — but this assumption violates the fundamental principle of law enforcement that all people are innocent until proven guilty. Many people, after all, who are held in jail are never charged of any crimes.

"In the more than dozen years I’ve been receiving DOJ releases I don’t recall ever seeing something like this," said Reuters reporter Lawrence Hurley about the statement.

Matthew Miller, an MSNBC justice analyst, agreed: "This is a ridiculous way for a DOJ spokesman to talk and it makes the department look terrible. These people have no appreciation for the institutions they have the temporary good fortune to lead."

The statement also ignores the fact that cities often have good reasons not to allow immigration enforcement to interfere in its own policing. Local police may find it difficult to work with their community if immigrants are fearful that any interaction with the police could lead to deportation. 

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