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Sessions denies his Las Vegas speech misrepresented study

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday disputed claims from the authors of a 2016 crime study, who had accused the country’s top-ranking law enforcement official of misrepresenting their research when he referenced it Wednesday during a speech in Las Vegas.

“The Attorney General accurately cited data from a study that clearly showed that the violent crime rate was higher in sanctuary cities versus non-sanctuary cities. That is a fact and assertions to the contrary ignore that data,” said Sessions spokesman Ian Prior.

Prior’s emailed statement followed a Las Vegas Review-Journal story that contained those contrary assertions. The story quoted study author Loren Collingwood, who said there was nothing in his research findings to support what the attorney general said.

Sessions cited the research to argue that crime is higher in so-called sanctuary cities — places where public officials limit the extent to which local police play an active role in enforcing federal immigration policy. He mentioned the University of California, Riverside study to blast cities that have refused to cooperate with the federal government on the issue of immigration enforcement.

Collingwood, the lead researcher and an assistant professor of political science at UC Riverside, disputed Sessions’ assesment of the research in a phone interview Wednesday. On Friday, Collingwood and fellow researcher Benjamin Gonzalez O’Brien penned an article in The Washington Post in which they accused the attorney general of cherry-picking their data and providing an untrue summation of their findings.

“In fact, our study suggests a different conclusion: Municipalities that chose to designate themselves as sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants experience crime rates no higher than they otherwise would,” Collingwood and Gonzalez O’Brien, a professor of political science at Highline College, wrote in the article. “We state this clearly throughout the study.”

The study defined sanctuary cities as “a city or police department that has passed a resolution or ordinance expressly forbidding city or law enforcement officials from inquiring into immigration status and/or cooperation with ICE.” ICE stand for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

To support his position — despite researchers’ unwavering assertions to the contrary — Sessions pointed to a chart included in the study that appears to show higher crime rates in sanctuary cities compared to non-sanctuary cities. The chart, however, includes a note that there is “no statistically discernible difference in violent crime rate” across the two groups.

“Because the confidence intervals are relatively large compared with the difference in crime rates, we cannot conclude that the crime rates in sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities are significantly different from each other,” Collingwood and Brian-Gonzalez wrote in their article Friday.

The study authors also pointed to other data in their research, which examined crime rates in sanctuary cities before and after the policies were enacted. That analysis, they said, revealed that sanctuary policies did not have a consistent effect on crime.

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com and 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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