New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the White House traded barbs on Wednesday over how cities work with federal enforcement when undocumented immigrants are accused of violent crime.
During an appearance in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Landrieu said acting ICE director Thomas Homan was "just plain wrong" when he recently criticized cities. Landrieu's remarks prompted the Trump administration to publicly dismiss the mayor's perspective on the issue as limited in scope and not as trustworthy.
Trump Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked candidly during the daily White House press briefing whether she trusts Homan's views over Landrieu's. "I think that's pretty safe to say," she replied.
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Landrieu, a Democrat and the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said during a Christian Science Monitor event in Washington Wednesday morning that Homan wasn't accurate when he chided cities in June for releasing undocumented immigrants, rather than calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"First of all, he's just wrong about that," Landrieu said. "I'm not aware of any police department that releases violent criminals on the streets of America. Irrespective of immigration status, our police departments every day are out there aggressively making sure the streets of America are safe."
Homan, who is considered one of the leading candidates to become the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, had complained at the White House on June 28 that "some law enforcement agencies fail to honor detainers or release serious criminal offenders," undermining ICE.
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"Most work with us, but many don’t in the largest cities, and that is where criminal aliens and criminal gangs flourish," Homan said.
Landrieu said that Homan had attended an event with mayors, as they sought guidance on policing "constitutionally."
"The No. 1 priority is taking violent criminals, especially those people in gangs, off the streets," Landrieu said. "It's not just in the immigrant community, it's in our communities as well."
He said that fingerprints from people booked into the Orleans Parish jail are sent to ICE "immediately."
"They have been vague about what they want," Landrieu said.
When asked about the remarks later, Sanders stood by Homan and noted that Landrieu's perspective is limited to his role as mayor of New Orleans.
"I think that Tom has served our country well. He has been active in law enforcement and I would certainly trust his opinion," Sanders said. "With a lot of confidence in him and his abilities, having been in a multitude of different positions in law enforcement and been able to see it in a lot of places – not just one location like the mayor – I would defer to Tom on the issue."
When asked for response, Landrieu's office referred to a tweet from his official account, directed at Sanders, that called on the White House to "fight all violent crime, not spend energy (and) money scapegoating immigrants."
New Orleans in 2012 signed a wide-reaching agreement with the federal government to protect citizens' constitutional rights and correct the department's past failings. That consent decree, which involves dealings with immigrant communities, has raised the issue of whether the city is a sanctuary jurisdiction that protects undocumented immigrants, which Landrieu has repeatedly denied.
Landrieu, who is in his second and final term as New Orleans mayor, has seen his national profile grow in recent months, following the high-profile removal of statutes honoring the Confederacy. A former lieutenant governor and state legislator, he's repeatedly batted down suggestions by pundits that he could consider a 2020 run for president.
But he has also faced heightened scrutiny over the city's violent crime. During a recent congressional hearing, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, decried the "extraordinary crime problem" New Orleans faces, amid a rash of highly-publicized violent incidences.