Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson

Joshua Albanese

GARY — Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have sharp philosophical differences over law enforcement.

"But at the end of the day, I hope we will find common ground. His bottom line is that he wants to work with us," Freeman-Wilson said Tuesday afternoon.

She and mayors from New Orleans, Austin, Texas and other cities met Tuesday in Washington, D.C., with Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to discuss emerging policies on immigration and violent crime.

Freeman-Wilson, who is co-chairwoman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' immigration reform commission, said the main idea the mayors wanted to get across is for President Donald Trump's administration to find a consistent policy that concentrates federal resources on fighting criminals rather than tough talk about deporting undocumented persons.

"By no means are we saying people should be allowed to circumvent immigration laws, but we asked for and got an assurance they will prioritize," she said.

Freeman-Wilson said that calmed some fears raised last week by news reports the government would deny law enforcement grant money to so-called sanctuary cities accused of refusing to share information with federal authorities about undocumented people.

The reports indicated Chicago, New York and Philadelphia were among those in jeopardy.

She said Gary and those other cities are in compliance with federal law and shouldn't be in jeopardy at the moment, but she is concerned the Trump administration will implement more stern measures.

"That is something that is unnerving in certain communities," Freeman-Wilson said.

"We support the attorney general's desire to address violent criminals in a very clear and punitive way. But we are concerned he believes that holding police agencies accountable for constitutional policing makes cities less safe. We think you can do both.

"I emphasized to him that to think this is strictly a law enforcement issue, is shortsighted. Look at drug courts. They and other alternative measures have an extremely important role to play in making our cities safer. 

"Quite frankly, I don't know whether or not he really understands the magnitude of the issues outside the realm of law enforcement. That is probably because he is a law enforcement guy.

"He has developed his opinions as a prosecutor, a U.S.Attorney and as member of the U.S. Senate. He seems to err on the side of law enforcement," the mayor said.

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Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.