3 key takeaways from Jeff Sessions' harrowing Monday press conference


Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to reporters at the White House on Monday, hammering down on an oft-repeated promise from President Donald Trump to crack down on immigration by punishing "sanctuary cities," or cities that don't automatically detain immigrants just for being undocumented. 

On Monday, Sessions warned again that cities that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants will face consequences — apparently ignoring critics who argue that asking local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law could violate the U.S. Constitution. 

Here's what you need to know about Sessions' latest comments:

1.  Sessions implied that crime would go down significantly if "sanctuary cities" deported immigrants for being undocumented — which is likely false.

Andrew Harnik/AP

"When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe," Sessions said on Monday. He continued: 

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. DUIs, assaults, burglaries, drug crimes, gang rapes, crimes against children and murderers — countless Americans would be alive today and countless loved ones would not be grieving today if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended.

But several studies have found that immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born residents and, according to the libertarian Cato Institute, among U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 54, 1.53% of native-born Americans are incarcerated, compared to just 0.85% of undocumented immigrants.

2. Sessions warned that the Justice Department will withhold DOJ grants from so-called sanctuary cities.

Sessions also said that the Department of Justice plans to deny federal funding to any cities that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants. "Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with [relevant laws] as a condition of receiving those awards," he said, according to ABC News.

DOJ grants go toward funding everything from police body cameras to officer trainings for deescalation techniques. Previously, Trump had warned that "sanctuary cites" could lose all federal funding, the Los Angeles Times reported in March, but on Monday, Sessions limited the repercussions to DOJ grants. 

3. Sessions urged Maryland not to become a sanctuary state.

Sessions called out the state of Maryland, in particular, which is currently considering legislation that would make the entire state a so-called "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants, in what some lawmakers have said is a direct response to proposed Trump policies.

"That would be such a mistake," Sessions said on Monday, speaking about the proposed legislation, according to the Hill. "I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it's not good policy." 

March 27, 2017, 5:21 p.m.: This story has been updated