Sean Spicer goes after Chicago, sanctuary cities and crime

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House March 31 in Washington. | AP Photo/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump regularly punches Chicago over its inability to stop horrible crime and on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer piled on.

Spicer occasionally takes questions via Skype at his daily briefing, and Derrick Blakely of CBS Chicago, the WBBM television station, asked about Trump’s plan to cut funds to sanctuary cities at the same time police are fighting street violence and gangs.

Spicer in his reply to a question explicitly about Chicago said the matters are linked. He warned against “delinking” sanctuary status that he claims – with no data – shields illegal immigrants and criminal activity.

My biggest point: When it comes to Chicago, there is no evidence illegal immigrants are the source of the ongoing horrific violence in parts of the city.

My thanks to Sun-Times colleagues Andy Grimm and Mick Dumke – who are part of the team covering Chicago crime – for helping me on Spicer’s “linkage” assertion.

As Grimm put it, “I don’t think increased illegal immigration is even on the radar of criminologists, mainly because there’d be no reason to believe that it’s increased. It was not mentioned in a recent University of Chicago Crime Lab report on violence in Chicago.”

Dumke noted, “The sanctuary city ordinance doesn’t apply to people who have an outstanding warrant, have been convicted of a felony or are “known” gang members.”

Spicer, in reply to Blakely, said “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 – member of gangs,” he said.

“And so 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 that you’re using in the first place are going to law enforcement to handle the situation that you’ve created for yourself,” Spicer said.

There are instances – and there is no getting around this – that some illegal immigrants have committed terrible crimes. That’s what Trump and his team focus on.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Monday briefing said he would stop — even “claw back,” or attempt to get a refund — of Justice Department funds flowing to “sanctuary” local governments, citing criminal acts by several illegal immigrants in San Francisco and Denver.

Trump constantly singles out Chicago’s crime problems. He did it again on Tuesday, when, meeting with Fraternal Order of Police leaders, including Chicago’s Dean Angelo, he said – again – “What’s going in Chicago? We will work every day to remove gang members and dealers from your communities.

Blakely asked a follow up: “Does that mean the president is more interested in deporting illegal immigrants than he is with putting shooters and killers in jail?”

Said Spicer: “No. Because if a shooter or killer is here illegally and he’s in this country, then I think that – again, I think, respectfully, you’re delinking the two issues. If you have people who are in this country illegally that are part of a gang, that are part of – they’re committing – a threat to public safety or committing a crime, then funding that activity and allowing that to fester is in itself a problem.

“And so by not rooting that out in the first place is allowing the problem to continue and not exactly showing an attempt to solve it in the first place.”

Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said, “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.”

There were seven people killed in South Shore Thursday. Perhaps Trump and his team can find another way to “punish” Chicago because it’s a sanctuary city. And discuss non-existent linkage later.

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