A swing against Sanctuary Cities as Hyattsville becomes one

Sanctuary cities: Paving the way for gangs?

HYATTSVILLE, MD (WUSA9) - This tweet from the President caught our eye tonight:

"The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!"

That begs the question -- are those sanctuary cities paving the way -- for gangs?

A short time later, the president got some backup from his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

“Sanctuary cities dangerously undermine this process, harboring criminal aliens only helps violent gangs like MS-13,” said Mr. Sessions, speaking at the Department of Justice.

RELATED: Daughter involved with MS-13 gang before death, mother says

Just nine miles away, the city of Hyattsville made it official and joined the list of Sanctuary Cities. A Hyattsville councilmember said the decision was not made on gang activity.

“I think we have a lot of residents who are living in fear at the moment and I think the time has come for us to pick sides,” said Hyattsville Councilwoman Shani Warner.

So as part of what Warner says is the local municipality’s job is to collect trash, maintain roads and protect the community, Hyattsville opted in an 8-2 vote Monday night, to put their long-standing practices on the books and prohibit Hyattsville from enforcing Federal immigration laws: make Hyattsville a Sanctuary City.

“We can’t have a portion of our residents scared to approach our police officers if they’re the victims of crime, if they’re witnesses,” said Warner.

What about MS-13 gang violence?

“Sanctuary Cities are aiding these cartels to refill their ranks,” said AG Sessions on Tuesday.

“I’m unaware of any Sanctuary Cities and gang activity,” Warner told WUSA9.

RELATED: Middle school gang recruiting increasing in DMV

Hyattsville Police say they haven’t had one MS-13 murder in the city this year, but all you have to do is a Google search and you see indictments involving murder convictions, racketeering and drug activity connecting certain residents of Hyattsville to MS-13 activity. The information found stretched over the span of some six years.

More recently, the problem is surging in areas not called Sanctuary Cities, like Montgomery and Fairfax Counties. Both say they won’t ask your status but do say they share information with ICE and will honor criminal detainers.

Lt. Chris Purvis of the Hyattsville Police Department says the city is about 2.5 square miles, that’s about half the size of LAX Airport. Purvis released a statement saying, “Sanctuary City Ordinance does not in any way impact the ability of the Hyattsville City Police Department to investigate criminal activity.”

Hyattsville has a significant immigrant population it depends on and recently passed an ordinance allowing undocumented residents to vote in city matters.

RELATED: 10 arrested, 4 ID'd, in gang-related murder of teen, police say

Warner says the Federal Funds President Trump has promised to pull only make a small dent (around $22,000) in their $16 million dollar budget. They also get FEMA funding, which Warner believes the President cannot legally pull.

In January, President Trump signed an Executive Order involving Federal Funds and Sanctuary Cities.

The Prince George’s County city is now said to be Maryland’s second Sanctuary City. Takoma Park has had the designation for decades.

With the most recent homicide in Manassas, the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force’s Director says their area has now seen eight gang-related murders since at least the fall.

Prince George’s County Police oversee homicides within Hyattsville City limits. On Wednesday, a spokesperson confirmed the city’s only seen one confirmed MS-13-related homicide since 2012. That occurred in 2016.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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