Sanctuary Cities: Fact-checking Jeff Sessions’ statistics on undocumented immigrants

Attorney General Jeff Sessions railed against sanctuary cities during a White House press briefing on Monday, blaming cities that shelter undocumented immigrants for gang rapes, murders and other serious crimes against “countless Americans.”

“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said. “Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”

Insisting that “such policies cannot continue,” Sessions announced that the Department of Justice plans to deny federal grants to any cities that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants — a callback to an executive order President Donald Trump signed just after assuming office in January, instructing the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security to deny federal funds to sanctuary jurisdictions.

How true are Sessions’ claims about undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities? Let’s take a look.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears at a press briefing with White House spokesman Sean Spicer.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Do most Americans oppose sanctuary cities?

Sessions cited a poll he said showed “80% of Americans believe that cities that arrest illegal immigrants for a crime should be required to turn them over to immigration authorities,” apparently referencing the same poll White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed to a couple weeks earlier. Spicer claimed 80% of Americans “don’t support sanctuary cities.”

As the Washingtonpointed out, both Sessions and Spicer are guilty of simplifying things a little bit.

The poll, conducted by Harvard University’s Center for American Political Studies and the Harris Poll, asked voters: “Should cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes be required to turn them over to immigration authorities?”

While it is true that 80% of the 2,148 polled answered…

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