Justice News

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks About Carrying Out the President's Immigration Priorities
Austin, TX
United States
Friday, October 20, 2017

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you for that kind introduction Richard. You’ve been a crime fighter here in this office for over three decades.  Thank you for your dedicated service.

I would also like to thank and recognize our selfless and dedicated law enforcement here who put their lives on the line every and who run toward danger for the benefit of us all. 

On behalf of President Trump, it is an honor to be here with you all – with the selfless and courageous men and women of law enforcement.  President Trump and this Department of Justice understand your mission.  The President has directed us to support that mission and support you.  And we are committed to doing that.

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 crime and the rule of law.  And we are finally getting serious about illegal immigration.

We have the most generous immigration laws in the world.  And for decades we have always pulled back from effective enforcement.

But earlier this month, the President released his principles for fixing our immigration system.  Let me just say: they are a breath of fresh air.  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.  Now we have a President who leads.

The principles he laid out deal with every aspect of our immigration problems—everything from border security to interior enforcement to closing loopholes in our asylum program.  It’s the kind of bold agenda that the American people have been waiting for.  It is reasonable and it will work.  And this is a critical point: this is not hopeless; it can be done!

First of all, the President is determined to finally build a wall at our Southern border.  This will make it harder for illegal aliens to break into this country.  For many, they will decide not to come illegally.  But more importantly, the wall will send a message to the world that we enforce our laws.  It sends a message: finally we mean it.

And to better do that, President Trump has proposed hiring more than 10,000 new ICE officers, 1,000 new ICE attorneys, 300 new prosecutors, and nearly 400 new immigration judges.  He has proposed switching to a more merit-based system of immigration like they have in Canada.  That means welcoming the best and the brightest but turning away gang members, fraudsters, drunk drivers, and child abusers.  This merit-based system would better serve our national interest because it would benefit the American people.  That’s what this agenda is all about.  We can't accept everybody—only people who will flourish.

And that’s why the President supports mandating the use of the E-verify system, which is an internet based system that allows employers to verify that those they hire are authorized to work in the United States.

Under the President’s plan, it would be illegal to discriminate against American workers in favor of foreign workers.

We need this agenda.  And Texans know that better than just about anybody.

I’m sure everyone in this room remembers Houston police officer Kevin Will.  An illegal alien who had been deported twice drove drunk and hit Officer Will at about 90 miles per hour.  Officer Will’s last words were telling someone to get out of the way of the car.  He died protecting innocent people.  And when he died, his wife was pregnant with their first child.

The open-borders lobby talks a lot about kids—those who are here unlawfully.  But open-borders policies aren’t even in their interest either.  After the previous administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—or DACA—policy in 2012, the number of unaccompanied children coming here nearly doubled in one year.  The next year, it doubled again.

I doubt that was a coincidence.  DACA encouraged potentially tens of thousands of vulnerable children to make the dangerous journey North.  That had terrible humanitarian consequences—and Texans know that firsthand.

Earlier this month, Border Patrol arrested two young men who had benefitted from DACA, for allegedly attempting to smuggle illegal aliens into Laredo.

Just a few days later, another beneficiary of DACA was charged with the murder of an 18-year old girl.  In total, 2,000 DACA recipients have had their status withdrawn.

The President wants to stop the incentives for vulnerable children to come here illegally.   He began to do that last month when he ended the DACA policy.

The President has also laid out a plan to close loopholes that are being exploited in our asylum program.

Under the previous Administration, the federal government began releasing illegal aliens who claimed to be too afraid to return home.  Unsurprisingly, the number of these claims skyrocketed nearly 20-fold in eight years from 5,000 in 2009 to 94,000 now.  And after their release, many of these people simply disappeared. 

It’s too easy to defraud our system right now—and President Trump is going to fix that.  The President’s plan to close the loopholes will stop the incentive for false asylum claims.

President Trump is also confronting the state and local jurisdictions that have undertaken to undo our immigration laws through so-called “sanctuary policies.”

Such policies undermine the moral authority of law and undermine the safety of the jurisdictions that adopt them.  Police are forced to release criminal aliens back into the community—no matter what their crimes.  Think about that: Police may be forced to release pedophiles, rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and arsonists back into the communities where they had no right to be in the first place.  They should—according to law and common sense—be processed and deported.

These policies hinder the work of federal law enforcement; they’re contrary to the rule of law, and they have serious consequences for the law-abiding Texans.

Earlier this month, an illegal alien in Kansas pled guilty to reckless driving that killed a law enforcement officer conducting a traffic stop.  He tested for a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit.  The officer who was killed—Deputy Brandon Collins—had two young daughters.

The illegal alien who killed Deputy Collins had already been arrested twice for driving-related offenses—including a previous drunk driving conviction.  Clearly, he had been in police custody, but no one turned him over to ICE.

The politicians behind “sanctuary” policies say that forcing police officers to release criminal aliens back onto the streets will somehow increase community trust. 

But that does not make sense to me.  Would releasing someone who had been arrested numerous times into your community give you more confidence in law enforcement?

Would learning that a local district attorney actually charges illegal aliens with less serious crimes than Americans to evade federal deportation make you believe they are trying to make your neighborhood safer?  Would forcing federal officers to track down criminal aliens on your street instead of safely in the jails make you believe we value your community?

We all know law enforcement is not the problem.  You risk your lives each day in service of the law and the people you protect.  Cooperation, mutual respect is critical.  Disrespecting our law enforcement officers in their lawful duties in unacceptable.

The problem is the policies that tie your hands. 

Yet, rather than reconsider their policies, sanctuary jurisdictions feign outrage when they lose federal funds as a direct result of actions designed to nullify plain federal law.  Some have even decided to go to court so that they can keep receiving taxpayer-funded grants while continuing to impede federal immigration enforcement.  We intent to fight this resolutely.

We cannot continue giving federal grants to cities that actively undermine the safety of federal law officers and intentionally frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities.

These jurisdictions that knowingly, willfully, and purposefully release criminal aliens back into their communities are sacrificing the lives and safety of American citizens in the pursuit of an extreme open borders policy. It’s extreme and open borders because if a jurisdiction won't deport someone who enters illegally and then commits another crime then who will they deport.

This isn’t just a bad policy. It’s a direct challenge to the laws of the United States.  It places the lives of our fine law enforcement officers at risk and I cannot and will not accept this increased risk because certain politicians want to make a statement.

Our duty is to protect public safety and protect taxpayer dollars and I plan to fulfill those duties.

The vast majority of Americans oppose “sanctuary” policies.  According to one poll, 80 percent of Americans believe that cities should turn over criminal aliens to immigration officials.

The American people are not asking too much, and neither is the Department of Justice.  Federal law enforcement wants to work with our partners at the state and local level.  We want to keep our citizens safe.

Fortunately, in President Trump, we have strong leadership that is making a difference. 

Since he took office, border crossings have plummeted by nearly a quarter—even as our economy has been booming.  This past fiscal year, Border Patrol conducted half of the number of arrests as the previous one, and one-fifth of the number of arrests they made a decade ago.

Now, someone might say, that decline is because they’re just not catching people.  But that’s just not true.

Border Patrol’s tactics and their technology have been refined and are only getting better.  The Department of Homeland Security believes that they are catching a greater share of illegal aliens than ever—more than four out of five.

So the data show clearly: President Trump’s leadership is making a difference.  Would-be lawbreakers know that we are restoring the rule of law and enforcing our immigration laws again.

And under President Trump’s immigration principles, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will stop rewarding sanctuary cities with taxpayer dollars. 

If these cities want to receive law enforcement grants, then they should stop impeding federal law enforcement.

In Texas, you have taken a leadership role on this issue.

I want to commend the state legislature for passing Senate Bill Four with strong majorities in both chambers, and thank Governor Abbott for signing it into law.

I am well aware that this law has its critics.  And I am more than familiar with their line of criticism.  But the facts of the case are clearly on Texas’ side.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in this case.  We believe that the outcome is important not just to the state of Texas, but to the national interest.  The integrity of our immigration laws is not a local issue—it is a national issue.

I am confident that Texas will prevail in court.  But I would urge every so-called “sanctuary” jurisdiction to reconsider their policies.  So-called “sanctuary” policies risk the safety of good law enforcement officers and the safety of the neighborhoods that need their protection the most.  There are lives and livelihoods at stake.

If we work together, we can make our country safer for all our residents—native born and lawful immigrant alike.  Working together requires ending “sanctuary” policies.

The Department of Justice is determined to reduce crime.  We will not concede a single block or street corner in the United States to lawlessness.  Nor will we tolerate the loss of innocent life because a handful of jurisdictions believe they are above the law.

And so to all the law enforcement here—federal, state, and local—thank you for all that you do.  President Trump is grateful; I am grateful, and the entire Department of Justice is grateful for your service.  We have your back and you have our thanks.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Updated October 20, 2017