U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen will address immigration enforcement and international gangs at a news conference in Baltimore on Tuesday.
Both issues have been central for the Trump administration, which has cracked down on immigrants entering the country illegally. Immigration agents arrested 143,470 inside the United States in the most recent fiscal year, a 25 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, DHS reported last week.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has touted the arrest and prosecution of members of the MS-13 gang, the best known of the gangs that originated in the 1980s among Central American immigrants in Los Angeles. MS-13 generally has been more active in Montgomery and Prince George's counties than in Baltimore.
The press conference will mark one of the first public events for Nielsen as secretary. She was confirmed by the Senate on Dec. 5.
Sessions has held similar events across the country this year. Speaking in Philadelphia in October, he said that MS-13 would be a top priority for a federal task force focused on organized crime. He used a speech in Miami over the summer to criticize Chicago for its so-called sanctuary policy in which local corrections officials limit cooperation with immigration agents.
The Trump administration’s stance on Baltimore’s immigration policies has been unclear. The Department of Homeland Security named the city a “sanctuary” in a report this year.
The Justice Department then sent a letter to city police in August asking officials to clarify the policy on when and how it would hold immigrants in the country illegally. That letter was sent in the context of a grant program that the city did not receive.
President Donald J. Trump had threatened repeatedly to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities. But it is the state of Maryland that sets the policies for Baltimore’s jail, not the city.
It’s not clear whether the Justice Department was satisfied with the answers it received from Baltimore, though the city has received a number of federal grants from the Justice Department and other agencies since then.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has not held immigrants in jail when requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement because, the state says, it instead gives federal agents advance notice before those individuals are released so that they can pick them up as they leave the state’s custody.