Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps making false claims about ‘sanctuary’ cities and crime

The Trump administration is pulling federal grand funding for “sanctuary” cities and counties, and they are responding in different ways. For example, Miami-Dade County reversed its sanctuary policy, while Chicago announced it would remain a sanctuary and sue the federal government over this change.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is leading the administration’s charge against sanctuary cities, recently gave a speech in Miami-Dade celebrating the county’s policy reversal. He credited the county’s reversal of sanctuary policies for its decline in violent crimes. Then, he blamed Chicago’s sanctuary policies for an increase in violent crimes in the city. Is that really the case? Does being a sanctuary city or county make you more dangerous?

No. “Sanctuary” generally refers to rules restricting state/local governments from alerting federal authorities about people who may be in the country illegally, for various reasons. (Check out our explainer on sanctuary policies.) There’s no evidence that sanctuary policies had anything to do with the crime trends in either Chicago or Miami-Dade.

Moreover, there’s very limited research on the effect of sanctuary policies on crime — and the research that does exist found no statistically significant impact, or showed that immigrant-friendly policing strategies reduced crime in some jurisdictions. Sanctuary jurisdictions release inmates after their criminal case is complete, and extensive research shows noncitizens are not more prone to criminality than U.S.-born citizens.

Yet Sessions continues to peddle this unproven causation to push his immigration policies. We awarded Sessions Four Pinocchios for his absurd claim linking sanctuary policies with crime trends in Chicago and Miami-Dade.

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Are there 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

This week, President Trump unveiled a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his speech, Trump claimed that “20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.” This jumped out at us, because it seemed quite high.

The secretary of state designates foreign terrorist organizations. Trumps claim didn’t jibe with the State Department’s official list, which only identified 13 foreign terrorist organizations as active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with one (Hizbul Mujahideen) being added just last week.

It took some digging to figure out where this number originated. We tracked it down to Gen. John W. Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. What Nicholson did was add entities designated by the Treasury Department and State Department as providing financial support to terror groups under Executive Order 13224, issued by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks.

This is problematic because these are two separate designations, so it’s mixing apples and oranges. Some of the Executive Order designations are for providing support to terrorist groups instead of being a terrorist group itself. That’s the reason the State Department has the legal authority to designate foreign terrorist organizations, and why its list is considered the gold standard. We awarded Three Pinocchios. 


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Help! Send us your congressional town hall fact-check ideas

Congress returns after Labor Day. You elected your lawmakers, and they answer to you. We want to fact-check what they’re telling you at Senate and House district town halls — and we need your help.

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Scroll down for this week’s Pinocchio roundup.

— Michelle Ye Hee Lee