Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Kurt, for that kind introduction. Thank you for your seven years of service to the Department of Justice and for your outstanding leadership now as United States Attorney.
Thank you to Anthony Hutchings, Buck Herron, Dan Smith, Bob Frank, Scott Conrad, and Jerry Williams for your leadership on the Board and for the invitation to join you today.
I also want to thank Chief Ryan Oster, Chief Clint Peters, Chief E.J. Clark, Chief McGee, Chief Steve Crawford, Chief Roger Nasset, and all of our law enforcement officers who are here today.
I especially want to thank Sergeant Tim Berger and Officer Richie O’Brien of Butte, Montana. We were together about a month ago when they won the well-deserved Top Cops Award.
Last May, Sergeant Berger and Officer O’Brien put their lives on the line after one of their own was struck down. They engaged in a more-than-100-mile chase after two criminals shot and killed Deputy Mason Moore of the Broadwater County Sheriff’s department. These officers are true heroes who kept the people of Montana safe and brought justice to those responsible for murdering one of your brothers in blue.
Let’s hear it for these two exemplary officers.
It is an honor to be here with you all – with the selfless and courageous men and women of law enforcement. The President has directed us to support you in your work—and we are committed to doing that. And his first order to me when I was confirmed? To back the blue.
Donald Trump ran for office as a law-and-order candidate and now he is governing as a law-and-order President. Under his strong leadership, we are finally getting serious about the rule of law.
As a prime example of that, the Trump administration is taking strong steps to make our schools safer.
Today I am announcing the Department of Justice’s first grants under the STOP School Violence Act, which President Trump signed into law. Under this new law, the Department of Justice will provide $50 million to train teachers and students and to develop an anonymous reporting system for threats of school violence. In the coming months, we will offer another $25 million in these school safety grants.
Working with the Department of Education, these grants will go a long way toward giving our young people safety and peace of mind.
But what I’d like to talk to you about today is the steps we are taking to help you—our men and women in blue—by restoring the rule of law in our immigration system.
Policing has always been dangerous work. But unchecked illegal immigration has made the work of police officers all across America tougher and more dangerous than it ought to be. It may not seem to be a problem here, but make no mistake about it: our porous Southern border puts you—and your brothers and sisters in uniform—at risk.
Earlier today, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released a report that shows that more than one-in-five of all persons in Bureau of Prisons custody were foreign born, and that 93 percent of confirmed aliens in custody were known or suspected illegal aliens.
Officers like you had to arrest them. Officers like you had to go into dangerous situations to take these people off of our streets—people who never should have been here in the first place. You shouldn’t have to do that. And to add insult to injury, you’re paying taxes to incarcerate these people.
And even when you’re not dealing with immigrant crime directly, you’re dealing with it indirectly. For example, most of the heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl in this country got here across our Southern border. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year as a result.
Here in the West, most of our DEA agents tell us that the top drug use is methamphetamine.
In 2016, more than 7,500 Americans lost their lives to a methamphetamine overdose alone. For fentanyl, it was over 20,000.
And this number has been increasing. According to the Montana Department of Justice, methamphetamine violations in this state rose by more than 400 percent from 2010 to 2015. Meanwhile heroin violations increased 1,500 percent.
Our porous border is a big factor in this problem. As just one example of many, in April, we arrested a teen trying to enter the country carrying 14 pounds of fentanyl across the border. That’s enough to kill 3.1 million Americans.
Any rational person that takes a look at this situation sees the need to secure the border and end the lawlessness.
But there is an open borders movement afoot in this country. From coast to coast, there are politicians who think that having any border at all—any limit whatsoever—is mean-spirited, unkind, or even bigoted. Sometimes they try to hide it; sometimes not.
And I’m not just talking about the extremists or known radicals, here. I’m talking about powerful, influential politicians.
For example, the vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee recently wore a t-shirt that says “I don’t believe in borders.”
For another example, the Mayor of Oakland has called illegal aliens “law-abiding.” Think about that. By definition that is not true.
In 2013, back when everybody thought Hillary Clinton would be president and when she could still make millions giving speeches to banks, she reportedly said in one secret speech, “my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.” This is the presidential nominee of a major political party.
But these are just the explicit, overt examples. There are plenty of other examples of politicians who try to sound like moderates but who vote for open borders policies. Apparently, even the libertarian CATO institute does too.
We must pause and think about this seriously. President Trump’s policies are not extreme, this is extreme. The caravan that came to our southern border demanding entry recently was organized by a group called “pueblos sin fronteras”—people without borders.
Can America welcome all who want to come here? One poll says 150 million people worldwide want to come here. No nation can sustain such a surge. Europe is in political turmoil over excess immigration. Open borders is an extreme, reckless and dangerous idea. It can never be a sane policy for America.
For decades, the American people have been begging and pleading with our elected officials for an immigration system that is lawful and that serves our national interest—one that we can be proud of and that’s fair and just. There is nothing mean-spirited about that. They are right and just and decent to ask for this.
But we’ve been blocked at every turn. Any law enforcement policies are attacked by open borders radicals. And every time something is proposed that would end illegal immigration, it gets blocked. If it works, it gets blocked.
For example, we’ve had Kate’s Law before the Congress. Kate’s Law is named after Kate Steinle, the young woman who was shot to death in San Francisco by an illegal alien who had been deported five times. Kate’s Law would increase the penalty for re-entry after deportation. That would deter illegal aliens from committing this crime.
But no. This bill has been blocked.
We’ve had the Toomey Amendment, to cut funding for sanctuary cities. That was blocked.
We’ve had the Secure and Succeed Act, which would increase funding for border security. That was blocked.
No wonder the American people are so frustrated. If it works, it gets blocked.
President Trump has made it clear that legislation is needed to end the illegality. And it is. Congress must act.
But at this Department and the Department of Homeland Security, under President Trump’s leadership, we’re not going to wait around for Congress to get its act together. We are taking action and we are enforcing the law without exception.
Unfortunately there has been a lot of misinformation about there about some of the things that we are doing. The reports have been so wrong that some people might even call it “fake news.”
And so I’d like to take a few minutes to clear things up.
For example, members of the media claimed that the government had “lost” thousands of children in the United States. That turned out not to be true.
Several reporters have tweeted out photos taken of Homeland Security facilities during the Obama administration and then used them to attack President Trump.
Sadly, there are many other examples of the media getting this wrong.
So let’s clear up some of the misinformation.
Under the laws of this country, illegal entry is a misdemeanor. Re-entry after having been deported is a felony.
Under the law, we are supposed to prosecute these crimes. Our goal is to prosecute 100 percent of illegal entries on the Southwest border.
If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. That’s our goal. It’s that simple.
If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, that is a crime, too. We will prosecute you for a felony as the law requires.
That much should be clear.
But there has been some confusion about this.
If you bring a child, it is still an unlawful act. You don’t get immunity if bring a child with you. We cannot have open borders for adults with children.
And when parents are prosecuted for illegal entry, their children cannot go to jail with them—just like when American citizens commit crimes. The Marshals’ detention facility doesn’t have a facility for children.
There are too many coyotes—human smugglers and human traffickers—who take kids across the border for a hefty price. The consequences are sometimes tragic.
Hundreds of illegal aliens die every year trying to make it to this country. In many cases, children are trafficked, abused, or recruited by criminal gangs. No one should subject their child to this treacherous journey—and yet the open borders lobby encourages it every day.
This is what happens: After apprehension of adults by the Department of Homeland Security, the children are cared for by the Department of Health and Human Services—and they are transferred to HHS custody within 72 hours. And they are well cared for. In fact, they get better care than a lot of American kids do—all at taxpayer expense.
We currently spend more than $1 billion a year in taxpayer dollars taking care of unaccompanied illegal alien minors. Most of these are in HHS custody. They are provided plenty of food, education in their language, health and dental care, and transported to their destination city—all at taxpayer expense.
Because of the Flores consent decree and a Ninth Circuit Court decision, ICE can only keep families detained together for a very short period of time.
We take unaccompanied children—on the taxpayer’s dime—anywhere they want. They are nearly always placed with a family member—sometimes one who is also here illegally. If they’ve got family in Missoula, we take them there from El Paso, Texas, free of charge. If they’ve got family in Boston, we take them there. It’s more than generous.
It’s almost unbelievable. It cannot be that someone can walk into a country contrary to the laws of the country and then be allowed to roam free in the country while their children get a free ride anywhere they choose.
So what is the alternative to following the law and prosecuting illegal entry? Well, under the Obama administration, the alternative was essentially no prosecution—de facto open borders. De facto amnesty.
If you showed up illegally at the border with a child, then you got off scot-free. Unsurprisingly, word got out about this and more and more people started bringing kids with them—more than 3 times as many this May as last May. It didn’t have to even be their child—it could be anyone. You can imagine the horrible abuses that resulted. And the open borders crowd has the gall to blame those who want to end this lawlessness and the dangers these children face.
Look, I hope that we don’t have to separate any more children from any more adults. But there’s only one way to ensure that is the case: it’s for people to stop smuggling children illegally. Stop crossing the border illegally with your children. Apply to enter lawfully. Wait your turn.
Some people in the media have chosen to attack us for enforcing the law. But I’m not ashamed of the United States of America. I am not going to apologize for carrying out our laws.
We’re not the ones breaking the law. If you don’t want to be separated from your children, then don’t smuggle them illegally. My duty is to enforce the laws of this country—and that’s what we’re going to do.
If they wanted to, Congress could end illegal immigration tomorrow. I hope that they will. The many good and constitutional proposals that will actually work, like the wall, must not continue to be blocked.
I believe that our political leaders owe it to you, our fabulous law enforcement officers, to get this issue right at last. We’ve got to stop the flow of drugs and crime into America. It is not fair to keep asking you to go into dangerous situations.
We are under no obligation to accept a single criminal into this country. Not one. Those whom we do accept into this country should have a crime rate of zero.
Tom Homan of ICE tells us that nine out of ten of the illegal aliens that they arrest in the interior have criminal records. Nine out of ten. Seventy-two percent are convicted criminals.
This is a great nation—the greatest in the history of the world. And we are the most generous in the world—admitting 1.1 million legally every year. It is no surprise that people want to come here. But they must do so properly. They must follow our laws—or not come here at all.
And so this Department, under President Trump’s leadership along with the Department of Homeland Security, is enforcing the law resolutely. We will finally secure this border so that we can give the American people safety and peace of mind.
That’s what the people—and especially you, our brave men and women in blue—deserve.