Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Mo for that kind introduction and for your leadership at NASRO.
I also want to thank Don Bridges and Archie Hodge for their service.
I have to say I’m pleased to see that my home state of Alabama is well-represented here today. I’m told we’ve got nearly 30 attendees here from the Yellowhammer state. Thank you for all that you do to keep our community safe.
But before I say anything else: congratulations to our award winners. Each one of you has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
And each one of you has an inspiring story to share.
Congratulations to Deputy Blain Gaskill of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, who stopped a school shooter within seconds of him opening fire. You saved a lot of lives that day.
Deputy James Long of Marion County, Florida heard a gunshot at his school—and within three minutes he had the suspect in custody. I’m sure that was the longest three minutes of your life, but you saved lives. Great job, James.
And just a month ago, Officer Mark Dallas with the Dixon, Illinois Police Department confronted a shooter who was about to enter the school gymnasium—where hundreds of students were practicing for graduation, including Officer Dallas’s own son. The shooter fired at him several times, but Officer Dallas neutralized him and kept him from hurting anyone that day. Every one of those kids who was practicing walked across the stage the next Sunday. Great job, Mark.
And of course I want to thank Officer Marvin Tevaga of Maui, our 2018 Floyd Ledbetter School Resource Officer of the Year.
Marvin grew up wanting to be a police officer. And for good reason. A school resource officer had mentored him when he was a kid and helped him to get his life on the right track. Now he is paying it forward and providing that same kind of mentorship to dozens of kids. After five years as a local police officer, Marvin has served for three and a half years on campus now and he has already saved at least one life.
One day he was walking through campus and saw a student lying unconscious on the ground. The student wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse. Thankfully, Marvin is a CPR instructor, and he was able to save her.
That student has now graduated.
Please join me in thanking Officer Tevaga for his extraordinary service.
Marvin is also a pretty good singer and ukulele player, too. So if law enforcement doesn’t work out, at least you have that to fall back on, Marvin.
But I think that Marvin’s story is also the story of so many other officers across this nation, as well. I’m sure that many of you could point to police officers whom you looked up to when you were growing up. I know I can.
I’m not sure if you all saw this, but there was a survey a few months ago that showed that more and more of our young people want to go into law enforcement. According to the survey, it used to be the number 10 dream job for kids under 12. Now it’s number three overall—and for boys it’s number one. Athletes dropped while more and more want to wear the badge.
I feel good about that. That tells me that we’re doing something right.
I believe that this is because of officers like you. These kids probably know a law enforcement officer personally—maybe a neighbor or one of their friends’ parents.
They know someone like you. They see how noble a calling it is to serve and protect.
I’m proud to say that in this Department of Justice—we understand that. We back the blue.
That’s why, when there is a tragedy, we believe it is our responsibility to be there for you and to have your back.
After the Parkland school shooting, the Department of Justice was able to provide more than $1 million in emergency funding to the officers in Broward County, Florida who were working overtime in the wake of the tragedy.
Today, I am announcing that the Department will provide $2 million in funding to Nevada to help rebuild after October’s shooting in Las Vegas—which was the deadliest mass shooting in American history and which took the life of an off-duty police officer.
This grant is in addition to the $1 million we already announced back in October. We recognize the heroic work done by police that day and in the constant effort poured out in the weeks afterward.
President Trump is the strongest supporter of school resource officers that has ever sat in the Oval Office. This administration understands and values the safety that you provide for our children.
At the direction of President Trump, the entire government has put renewed attention on this issue. We at the Department of Justice are investing in you in many ways and in particular by providing funding for cities and states to hire school resource officers.
Every year we help hire hundreds of police officers across America.
Under President Trump, we are channeling this grant funding to cities, states, and tribes that want to hire school resource officers. We are also offering firearms training to you as you request it.
Earlier this month, I announced 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 a threat reporting system.
These grants will serve both safety and peace of mind.
Today, I am announcing another $25 million—for better training and for technology to improve emergency reporting.
We made these grants because we listened to you. We have held numerous meetings and conferences. Just last Thursday, I participated with Secretary DeVos and top officials from DHS and HHS in a conference taking testimony from experts on cyber bullying, violent video games, and media contagion. Though there were differences of opinion, it was a most valuable hearing.
I believe that this funding is going to make you more effective—and that will make the children of this country safer.
The safety of children is important. All children.
You may not know, our government spends enormous sums of money every year to protect and care for unaccompanied alien children who were recklessly sent to the United States by their family members. A billion dollars a year.
Of course, this is a generous country. But word got out that this country was not prosecuting adults who illegally came to this country so long as they brought a child with them.
Predictably, the numbers of people illegally entering with children surged dramatically: 14,000 in 2013 to 75,000 in 2017—a 5 fold increase in just 4 years. Under this policy, adults and children were simply being released in the country.
If we refused to prosecute these adults for illegal entry—as many of our critics want us to do—that would be a disservice to the people of this country. It would also be an insult to those who come here legally, waiting their turn lawfully.
And most importantly: it would encourage more adults to bring more children illegally on a dangerous journey that puts these children at great risk.
The President has made clear: we are going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally. But we are going to do everything in our power to avoid separating families. All federal agencies are working hard to accomplish that goal, especially to care for children.
And its important to remember, these adults are only being arrested because they chose not to enter out country at any of the many official ports of entry where they could have applied for asylum legally. But many do not apply for asylum. And our courts find that 80 percent of asylum claims are without merit.
There would have been no crime, no arrest, and the families that apply lawfully are kept together.
And while we want to keep these families together, we need Congress to act. Some of you may know this, but under a court ruling from California called Flores, Homeland Security is not allowed to detain illegal alien children with their parents for more than 20 days even while their immigration cases are pending.
On Wednesday, President Trump ordered me to seek a change to this court ruling. We filed our request for relief in court the very next day. But Congress can fix this tomorrow.
And we’ve also seen an increase in children being sent by themselves because of the incentives in our broken system.
More than 80 percent of the children crossing the border are coming by themselves without any parents or guardian sent with a paid smuggler—we can only guess as to how many never make it to our border during that dangerous journey.
Children have indeed borne much of the burden from our broken immigration system.
And the children you serve are too. They are watching as their friends and even their family members are getting involved in drugs and getting trapped in the funnel of addiction that is being fed by drug cartels taking advantage of our porous southern border.
The vast majority of fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine in this country came here across our Southern border. That means that tens of thousands of Americans—including far too many children—are being killed every year because we do not have a secure border.
Mexico must do more to help us reduce these dangers if we are to continue our positive relationship with them.
These drug cartels know our laws and take advantage of our generosity. They are only too happy to use children to smuggle their drugs as well.
Think about this: in just four days at the end of March, Customs and Border Protection apprehended five juveniles who were allegedly smuggling fentanyl. Between the five of them, they allegedly had more than 35 pounds of it—enough to kill millions of people.
And of course, many children have been directly victimized by criminals who take advantage of our broken immigration system.
Last May, a Guatemalan man who illegally came to this country was sentenced to 50 years in prison for sneaking into a six-year old girl’s bedroom in Tennessee and then molesting her while she was asleep. He also filmed it.
A few weeks later, they found him hiding under her bed. You might be interested to know that he had been previously apprehended in 2013 but he wasn’t detained and never showed up to his removal hearing.
Last August, a nanny who was illegally in Danbury, Connecticut was sentenced to 15 years in jail for brutally abusing a three year old girl in her care. A hidden camera in the household revealed that she repeatedly burned her hands on the stove and viciously beat her.
And just last week, the Department secured the conviction of an illegal alien from Honduras who tried to coerce an underage girl in Louisiana into sending him pornographic images of her. Now he’s going to jail for at least 15 years.
There are many other stories and too many other young victims. These criminals shouldn’t have been here. These children shouldn’t be victims. They should have been protected from them by a fair and just immigration system that put their safety ahead of political talking points.
We should vet applicants for entry and not admit any with criminal histories.
And, if someone unlawfully enters our country and commits another crime, especially crimes against children like these, they should be deported after serving their sentence—not protected by sanctuary policies.
To have true compassion for our children, we must restore lawfulness to our immigration system and keep them safe—including immigrant children who are often the targets of vicious gangs like MS13.
There was an article in the Washington Post last week about a middle school ravaged by MS-13 in Maryland—just 10 miles from the White House.
And on Friday, we indicted 11 members of the gang in northern Virginia for murdering two children.
MS-13 is recruiting children who were sent here as unaccompanied minors and some are brought to help replenish the gang and they are terrorizing immigrant schools and communities from Los Angeles to Louisville to Long Island to Boston. They are able to do so because we do not have a secure Southwest border.
That is not fair to the children you serve—and it’s not fair to you.
What is the compassionate right thing to do? The compassionate thing to do is to protect our children from drugs and violence, put criminals in jail, and secure our borders. Having an immigration system that has integrity and consistency is right and just and moral. The alternative is open borders—which is both radical and dangerous.
And on that point, there is something I want to say to our men and women enforcing these laws. The Department of Justice supports our courageous and patriotic ICE agents, officers, lawyers, and other personnel 100 percent.
Free speech, assembly, and protest are and will be protected. But we will not tolerate obstructing law enforcement or committing other crimes to deter enforcement of our laws. The men and women of ICE carry out their lawful duties every day, and will not be prevented from doing so simply because some individuals disagree with their mission.
It is a crime to assault or threaten a federal government employee, and the Department of Justice can and will aggressively prosecute violators who target the honorable men and women of our Department of Homeland Security.
So in the Trump administration, that is what we are doing. We are going to continue to secure the border. We are going to continue to “back the blue” and invest in law enforcement. And that means that we are going to continue to invest in you.
You are a sound investment—one that pays dividends every day.
And so I want to close by thanking all of you once again. Not just our award winners. But also to the thousands of unsung heroes who are wearing the badge across America.
Thank you for committing your lives to this difficult but noble work of protecting the most innocent and most vulnerable among us—the children of this country.