Justice News

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks on National Security and Immigration Priorities of the Administration
Norfolk, VA
United States
Friday, January 26, 2018

Thank you, Tracy for that kind introduction and for your leadership as first Assistant U.S. Attorney.  Thank you for your seven years of service to this Department.  You’ve done incredible work taking on child predators and national security threats and you’ve got a lot to be proud of.  My good friend Dana Boente speaks very highly of you and of everyone in your office.

Above all I want to thank all of our state and local law enforcement officers who are here.  This Department of Justice has your back.

We honor the work that you do.  There is no task of this Department—or of this government—more important than keeping the American people safe. 

And this is no easy task.

Today we face a number of serious threats—from the vicious MS-13, to the deadliest drug epidemic in American history, to radical Islamic terrorism.

Our law enforcement community is resolute and determined to confront each of these threats and to give every American safety and peace of mind.

But to do that, we need to have the right policies in place.  It is neither fair nor reasonable to ask more and more of law enforcement while at the same time undermining their efforts through harmful or ineffective policies.

Our immigration policies, for example, do not promote our national interest, but instead select the vast majority of legal immigrants without any respect to merit.

As a result, law enforcement officers have had more work to do.  You’ve had to go into more dangerous situations and confront more criminals—criminals who often shouldn’t have been allowed in this country in the first place.

There are some 11 million illegal aliens in this country—a population the size of Georgia or Portugal.  If we can’t control—or even know—who enters this country, it’s that much harder to keep people safe.

And this is no hypothetical matter.  The effects can be seen across the country.

Last week, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released a report that reveals that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has removed more than 1,700 aliens with national security concerns since 9/11. 

It also states that nearly three out of every four people convicted of international terrorism-related offenses in federal courts since 9/11 were born outside of this country. 

That includes Mahmoud Amin Mohamed El-Hassan, a Sudanese national who lived in Woodbridge, Virginia.  He was admitted to the United States in 2012 through chain migration—as a family member of a lawful permanent resident. 

Now he has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for attempting to help someone fly from Richmond to Syria to fight for ISIS.  He planned on following him there later.

The report goes on to talk about Ali Shukri Amin, a Sudanese national who lived in Manassas.  He was admitted to the United States through chain migration as the child of a diversity visa lottery recipient, and was naturalized.  He too is serving an 11-year sentence for trying to help ISIS.

According to court documents, Amin admitted to using Twitter to provide advice and encouragement to ISIS and its supporters.  He also admitted that he assisted an Iranian-born friend from Prince William County to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

And as we all know, this fall we saw two terrorist attacks in New York City in less than two months that were carried out by people who came here as the result of the diversity lottery and chain migration.  As a result, eight people were killed.

These cases are alarming, and should concern every American. We have no duty to allow terrorists and their sympathizers into this country.  And yet we know that hundreds of them have endangered the lives of the citizens we have sworn to serve and protect.

Any crime committed by improperly vetted immigrants—and especially illegal aliens—is, by definition, preventable.  Even one victim of a crime committed by an illegal alien is too many.  Criminals have no right to demand entry to the United States.  We should strive to never admit criminals.  And yet thousands of Americans across our country have suffered because of decades of lax immigration policies and even more lax enforcement.

Last month, we released another report with the Department of Homeland Security, which revealed that there were nearly 40,000 known or suspected aliens in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.  That’s roughly one in five federal prisoners.  That means that the immigrant share of the federal prison population is nearly two-thirds greater than their share of the general population.

Out of those in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for housing those awaiting trial, nearly 20,000 were foreign-born. That is more than one third. And nearly triple their share of the general population. 

I’m sure you’ve heard that immigrants are less likely to commit a crime than average.  But one study that just came out looked at the prison population in Arizona and found that illegal aliens are more than twice as likely to be convicted of crimes as Arizonans.  

They’re more likely to be convicted of sexual assault, robbery, and driving under the influence.  They’re more than twice as likely to be convicted of murder. 

Tens of thousands of crimes have been committed in this country that would never have happened if our immigration laws were enforced and respected like they ought to be.

Just three days ago, an illegal alien from Mexico living in Southern California was charged with rape of an intoxicated victim and first-degree burglary.  He’s a driver for a ride-sharing company.  He allegedly took advantage of intoxicated female passengers who got into his car.  Under the laws of this country, he shouldn’t even be here.

This issue of crime committed by aliens doesn’t just affect the victims of these crimes.  It affects us all by placing an unnecessary and unfair burden on our federal agents.

That’s also what happens when cities, counties, and states deliberately refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. 

These so-called “sanctuary” policies force police to release criminal aliens back into the community—no matter what their crimes.

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.

That’s why, under President Trump’s leadership, we have started to channel federal law enforcement funding to cities that cooperate with immigration enforcement. 

If these cities want to receive law enforcement grants, they can.  They just have to stop impeding federal law enforcement.

On Wednesday, the Department requested documents from 23 jurisdictions across the country to ensure that they are complying with the law.  Those that fail to respond completely or promptly will be subject to a subpoena. 

I am hopeful that it will not come to that, and that these cities and counties will show us that they are following the law.

But for a permanent fix to our immigration laws, Congress needs to act.

The American people have known for more than 30 years that our immigration system is broken.  It’s intentionally designed to be blind to merit.  

It doesn’t favor education or skills.  It just favors anybody who has a relative in America—and not necessarily a close relative. That defies common sense.  Employers don’t roll dice when deciding who they want to hire.  Our incredible military doesn’t draw straws when deciding whom to accept.  But for some reason, when we’re picking new Americans—the future of this country—our government uses a randomized lottery system and chain migration.

President Trump ran for office and won by arguing to fix this broken system.  We finally have a President who has listened to the people on this issue. He has the kind of bold agenda that the American people have been waiting for—and that we deserve.

The President is determined to finally build a wall at our Southern border.  This will make it harder and more expensive for illegal aliens to break our laws and smuggle drugs or even human beings into this country.  For many, it will become too costly, or too much trouble, and they will stay home. 

Perhaps most importantly, the wall will send a message to the world that in the United States of America, we enforce our laws.

And to better achieve that, President Trump has proposed hiring more than 10,000 new ICE officers, 1,000 new ICE attorneys, 300 new immigration prosecutors, and nearly 400 new immigration judges.  With these new resources, our immigration system will move faster and more efficiently.

But a central idea of the President’s immigration reform proposal is switching to a merit-based system of immigration. 

That means welcoming the best and the brightest but banning and deporting gang members, identity fraudsters, drunk drivers, and child abusers—making them inadmissible in this country.  This merit-based system would better serve our national interest because it would benefit the American people, which is what the Trump agenda is all about.

And this proposal is not unique.  A merit-based system is the law in places like Canada and Australia.  In those countries, future Canadians and future Australians are chosen based on their likelihood of assimilating, thriving, and contributing to society as a whole.

That kind of system would be great for our economy, of course.  Much more importantly, it would be the best way to ensure that our immigration system does not continue to harm our national security.  Immigration is a national security issue.

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

It is time to put in place smarter immigration laws—and start enforcing them.  The American people have waited long enough. It is time to end the lawlessness and create a system that serves the national interest. 

President Trump’s proposed merit-based system would restore fairness and respect for the law to our immigration system.  And it would also help keep us a lot safer.

And I want to say one last thing. 

I love the Department of Justice and the great people that work there.  The vast majority are dedicated, hardworking, patriotic Americans.  It’s an honor to serve with them.

From day one, my mission as Attorney General has been to ensure our great Department has its rightful place as the crown jewel of the U.S. government.

However, there have been some sharp criticisms about the Department of Justice.  There are two ways to address this:  one way is to be defensive; the other is to hear the concerns, and act on them professionally, fairly, and completely, in order to maintain the public’s trust in their government.

My purpose every day is to get the Department back to its fundamental mission of enforcing the law and protecting the safety of Americans with integrity and fairness.  That’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and that is what my team works hard at every day.

This mission means returning to the constitutional role of enforcing the law as it is written, not as some particular group thinks it should have been written.  Some people like that concept.  Some people don’t.  But the Constitution says that Congress writes the laws and we enforce them, not the other way around.

It means absolutely eliminating political bias or favoritism - in either direction - from our investigations and prosecutions.  That sort of thinking is the antithesis of what the Department stands for, and I won’t tolerate it.

It means identifying mistakes of the past, and correcting them for the future.  When we find problems, we’re addressing them head on, not sweeping them under the rug. Much of what we are doing is behind the scenes, but some of it is squarely in the public view.  That’s ok.  It’s part of the process.

We don’t see criticism from Congress as a bad thing.  We welcome Congress as a partner in this effort.  When they learn of a problem and start asking questions, that is a good thing.  Sunlight truly is the best disinfectant. Truth produces confidence. 

A culture of defensiveness is not acceptable.  The Department of Justice does not always know what’s best, and it is not perfect.  And, it can never be that this Department conceals errors when they occur.

We expect—no, we demand—the highest level of integrity, ethics, and professionalism from every person in this Department.  Everyone is expected to advance the mission of the Department honorably in service to the American people. 

If anyone falls short of these high standards, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action- and we will do so in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Department. 

And, while we are open to fair criticism, we will of course defend our investigators and prosecutors from criticism that is unfair.

Our goal is justice. All our work is subject to review with certain restraints.  We will not reject justified review.  Our work requires constant improvement and adjustment, but it must always be founded on integrity and law.

Nothing is more important.

Thank you.

National Security
Updated January 26, 2018