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Jeff Sessions Is in Boston and the ACLU Is Ready to Greet Him

An "Unwelcoming Party" is planned for the attorney general.

Photo via AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is stepping into enemy territory today, due to appear in Boston to meet with law enforcement for a talk about transnational gangs. And Boston, a city that has made its disdain for the man and his ideas pretty clear, is ready for him.

His visit, announced yesterday, has prompted a response from the local ACLU, which has organized an “Unwelcoming Party” for the nation’s top law enforcement official. Protesters will gather on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse “to tell U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions his backwards, racist, anti-civil liberties policies are not welcome in Boston,” according to a description on a Facebook event page.

Sessions is due at Boston’s Moakley Courthouse at 3 p.m. to speak at the U.S. attorney’s office about Mara Salvatrucha, the criminal organization with roots in both the U.S. and South America that is better known as MS-13. Founded in the U.S. by Central American refugees in the 1980s, the group now operates both here and in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala. Sessions under President Trump has prioritized a crackdown on MS-13, and pointed to its members’ presence in American cities like ours as justification for stricter immigration controls, and to rail against so-called Sanctuary Cities that don’t participate more fully in deportations. “Harboring criminal aliens only helps violent gangs like MS-13,” Sessions said earlier this year. “Sanctuary Cities are aiding these cartels to refill their ranks and putting innocent life — including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants — in danger.”

Trump has blamed the Obama administration’s “weak illegal immigration policies” for allowing “bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.,” as he put it in a tweet.

Meanwhile, as Boston experts know, the city’s immigrants are not, statistically speaking, the criminals Sessions says they are. Research has shown again and again that immigrants are overall less likely to commit crimes than their native-born peers. And that’s including undocumented immigrants. “The rhetoric of the ‘criminal immigrant’ does not align with the bulk of empirical research,” Bianca Bersani, researcher at UMass Boston, tells PolitiFact. Bersani published a study in 2012 that found “Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course.”

Nevertheless Trump’s administration has come after sanctuary cities, attempting to pressure cities like Boston into cooperating with federal immigration authorities by threatening to withhold federal grant money. A judge has blocked that effort at least for now. The Justice Department has appealed.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has condemned such threats. “The safety and well-being of our residents is, and will continue to be, my top priority as Mayor of Boston,” he said back in March. “The threat of cutting federal funding from cities across the country that aim to foster trusting relationships between their law enforcement and the immigrant community is irresponsible and destructive.”


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com