White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that sanctuary cities don't deserve federal funds for law enforcement, arguing their policies mean they don't care enough about stopping crime.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in January that would take away federal funds from sanctuary cities, but key details remain unclear.
Reporters from Philadelphia and Chicago each asked if the administration intends to make good on its threat to cut federal funding to local jurisdictions that have so-called "sanctuary" policies, a catch-all term that replies to some level of non-cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
"It's concerning in places like Chicago and other cities like yours in Philadelphia where there's been increased violence," Spicer told Maurice Goodman of WWDB-AM in Philadelphia about sanctuary cities. "Immigrants, both legal and illegal, are not safe when criminals who have committed egregious acts are free to roam the streets."
Derrick Blakley of WBBM in Chicago said that Trump has also made combating street violence in Chicago a major focus as well, and asked if the administration would take funds away from law enforcement as they work to fight the issue.
"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.
"Does that mean that the President is more concerned with deporting illegal immigrants than he is with putting shooters and killers in jail?" Blakley asked.
Spicer said the issues were "inextricably linked."
"If you have people who are in this country illegally that are part of a gang, that are a threat to public safety or committing a crime, then funding that activity and allowing that to fester is in itself a problem," Spicer said. "By not rooting that out in the first place is allowing the problem to continue and not exactly showing an attempt to solve it."
There is no evidence that Chicago's violence problem is linked to undocumented immigrants, and in fact, according to University of Chicago's Crime Lab, most victims and suspects of gun violence are African-American men, and increased gun violence was disproportionally located in a handful of neighborhoods on the city's South and West sides.
Many sanctuary cities have far less crime than other cities, as touted by Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Adler, who met with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly this week, told CNN his city preserves the policies precisely because it contributes to safety.
The Trump administration has been particularly aggressive about jurisdictions who have policies of declining detainer requests from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Those requests ask local law enforcement agencies to detain individuals in jail that ICE believes could be deported for up to 48 hours after they would otherwise be released based on criminal procedure so that ICE can pick them up.
But major city police chiefs have said that, in fact, they support sanctuary policies in order to promote public safety, by preserving trust with the community so that they can report crimes and serve as witnesses without fearing deportation -- and to free up resources to fight local crime rather than perform the function of federal immigration officers.
DHS last week began issuing weekly reports naming jurisdictions that decline such detainers and listing the criminal charges for those who were not detained, it's latest effort to put pressure on such areas.