The Trump administration Thursday put sanctuary cities front and center in its battle to take down the ruthless MS-13 street gang, saying the efforts to shield illegal immigrants was providing safe haven for violent criminals.
“Cooperation is critical. It is often state and local law enforcement not ICE that first come into contact with transnational criminal organizations,” Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters at the White House.
He said that with the help of city and state government, “our gang is bigger than theirs.”
The White House highlighted the fight against MS-13 as Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in El Salvador, meeting with his counterpart to organize an attack on the gang in its home base.
The focus on the Justice Department’s anti-gang effort comes amid tension between President Trump and Mr. Sessions, who has been savaged by the president in interviews and on Twitter for doing a poor job.
Robert K. Hur, the principal associate deputy attorney general, said Mr. Sessions had made the takedown of MS-13 a priority and had taken new steps to crack down on sanctuary cities to advance the fight.
“The attorney general will not allow sanctuary cities to become sanctuaries for criminals,” he said.
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