Mayor Elorza heading back to Washington to meet AG Sessions on immigration policy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza will travel to Washington, D.C., with a group of mayors and police chiefs to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on several public safety issues, including President Trump’s executive order regarding illegal immigration.

The meeting is closed to the media, but Elorza and the other attendees will hold a press conference afterward. Also expected to be on hand are New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin; Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler; Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Chief Tom Manger; and Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

As co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Immigration Reform Task Force, Elorza was among a group of mayors and chiefs who met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last month to seek clarity on the executive order signed by President Trump on Jan. 25 that called for federal immigration officers to ramp up enforcement actions while also threatening to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

Elorza – a Democrat who refers to Providence as a sanctuary city but also maintains the city fully complies with federal immigration law – said the mayors in the first meeting were seeking “clarity with the use of terms so we know we’re speaking the same language.”

No one from the Trump administration has offered a definition for sanctuary cities or released a list of jurisdictions at risk of losing federal funds. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has placed Providence and more than 100 other communities on a list of communities they believe “limit cooperation” with immigration officers.

ICE initially pledged to release weekly reports listing jurisdictions that were declining detainers from the federal agency, but the reports have been temporarily suspended after several errors were found. Last week Sessions sent letters to nine jurisdictions asking them to prove they were complying with federal immigration law or risk losing grants from the Justice Department. (Providence was not one of the cities that received the letters.)

Locally, Elorza has said he intends to sign a far-reaching police profiling ordinance into law that prohibits officers from asking about a person’s immigration status. That policy was one Providence already had in place, but not in the form of an ordinance. Officials have said they don’t believe the city runs the risk of losing federal funds because of the policy.

Elorza quickly sought to capitalize politically on his second meeting with the Trump administration, sending a fundraising email with the subject line, “In this together.”

“Our goal is to stand together and tell the Justice Department that we will not step aside and allow the Trump Administration to deport the hard working, law-abiding immigrant families of our Cities,” Elorza’s campaign wrote. “Will you contribute to my campaign today and help send a message to Attorney General Sessions that Providence will not back down in the fight for freedom and due process?”

CORRECTION: Mayor Elorza’s first meeting in Washington was with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, not Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan