Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on several topics including immigration. Sessions defended the DOJ’s ability to limit federal grants to sanctuary cities and said that DACA recipients should not be given amnesty in exchange for just border security.
Sessions defended Pres. Trump’s decision to end the DACA program since it was unconstitutional and said that it us up to Congress to act on this issue.
“The DACA policy produced by the last administration could not be sustained,” Sessions said during the hearing. “It was unlawful and contrary to the laws passed by this Constitution — this institution. In Congress, you now have the ability to act on this issue.”
He did confirm that Pres. Trump and the DOJ are open to working on a solution with Congress but stated that provisions to protect Americans and deter illegal immigration would need to be included.
"But I am prepared to say, and I think I've said previously, something could be worked out on this. But it can't just be one-sided," Sessions responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Sessions also advocated for Pres. Trump’s new 70-point immigration priority list saying the, “President has set out a reasonable and effective plan with numerous immigration priorities for this body to consider, including a border wall, significant asylum reform, swift border returns and enhanced interior enforcement.”
Sanctuary cities also became a hot topic during the hearing when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) criticized the Attorney General’s decision to withhold the Byrne JAG federal grants from jurisdictions who refused to cooperate with ICE.
Sen. Durbin brought up the city of Chicago, which the DOJ has labeled a sanctuary city, saying that withholding these funds is hurting the city’s ability to handle the gun violence problem in the city. Sen. Durbin also said that illegal aliens have little or nothing to do with this violence, according to the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
Sen. Sessions responded saying, “I think the politicians cannot say that if you remove a violent criminal from America that’s illegally in the country and he’s arrested by Chicago police and put in the Chicago jail, that once they’re released, they shouldn’t be turned over to the federal ICE officers so they can be removed from the country. They were here illegally to begin with, much less commit another crime.”
He continued, “I do not want to not have grants go to Chicago, but we need their support. When somebody is arrested in their jail that’s due to be deported, we simply ask that they call us so we can come by and pick them up and say they need to be removed. That is not happening and we’ve got to work through it some way.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) took the opposite approach apologizing to the Attorney General for New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s response to the DOJ letter recognizing the city as a sanctuary city. In the letter Sessions warns that without more information on the city’s policy they may lose federal grant money.
Sen. Kennedy then asked Sessions and others from the DOJ would meet with him and the new mayor of New Orleans to resolve this issue.
“Absolutely I would,” Sessions responded. Sessions then mentions that out of the 10 letters he sent to potential sanctuary cities, “about half of those now have gotten off the list. We would love to see New Orleans get off the list, but we are not there yet …We are asking that when the city arrests somebody that is illegally in the country for some other crime to communicate with us, give us notice before they are going to be released back into the community, because we may find or ICE officers may find that they are due to be deported. … It’s amazing to me that some of the mayors are so reluctant and so hostile to that simple request. And I don’t think it is my duty to give out grants to cities that are failing in the most fundamental relationship between the federal, state jurisdictions.”
In response to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) question about catch-and-release, Sessions responded that the catch-and-release policy of the Obama administration is still continuing, mainly due to immigration courts that are overburden with asylum cases.
“Essentially it’s not the policy, but it’s the reality,” Sessions said. “There are so many people claiming and being entitled to hearings that we don’t have the ability to provide those hearings. They are being released into the community and they’re not coming back for their hearings. It is unacceptable.”
Watch the full hearing here.
Updated: Thu, Nov 2nd 2017 @ 1:10pm EDT