PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Philadelphia on Friday, as he encouraged local law enforcement to put an end to sanctuary cities.

During his speech, Sessions touched several themes, starting with what he calls a “surge in the murder rate, up 11 percent nationwide, the largest increase since 1968.” He also notes preliminary data show that murders in Philadelphia are up more than 20 percent from last year.

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Sessions criticized Philadelphia and other jurisdictions which have sanctuary policies, by failing to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested.

“They are giving sanctuary not to law abiding citizens, but they are providing sanctuary to criminals,” he said.

Sessions cited a case in which he said Philadelphia policies prevented police from honoring a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain an illegal alien. He says after that man was released last year, he was charged with raping a child.

He did not mention anything about previous threats to withhold federal grant money to sanctuary cities, if they remained out of compliance. During his Philadelphia stop, he urged them to “rethink” those policies.

Afterwards, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who was in the room, said he doesn’t believe his department “should be in the immigration business.”

“As it relates to violent crime, our problems are not people from other countries,” Ross said. “Our problems are some of the young men, from here, who are hopeless about a lot of things.’

As Ross puts it, “We have a tough enough time building relationships as it is.”

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While Sessions was inside making his case against Philadelphia’s sanctuary status, 30 protesters gathered outside, calling for him to resign.

“It’s time for him to go. What he’s doing to people, he’s ripping off families,” said one protester.

Their signs read, “No, Drive out the Trump/Pence Regime,” “Stop separating families,” and “Immigrants and refugees are welcome here.”

Samantha Goldman is a member of Refuse Fascism Philly and one of the organizers of Friday’s protest.

“Jeff Sessions is a fascist who bringing forward xenophobic and racist policies,” she said.

Goldman wants Sessions to know that she and others support sanctuary cities like Philadelphia.

“Immigrants are full human beings, refugees are full human beings and we are committed to saying no, and driving this fascist regime out,” she said.

About two dozen protesters attended the rally which had a heavy police presence, and there were no incidents.


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KYW’s Steve Tawa and Cherri Gregg and CBS3’s David Spunt contributed to this story.