Attorney General Jeff Sessions forcefully rebuked critics who fault the Trump administration for the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border, saying that the Obama administration’s policies are partially to blame.
Speaking to Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Monday night, Sessions said illegal immigrants have taken advantage of the U.S.
“We have watched what happened with the Obama policies, and over years, we went from 15,000 illegal entries to 75,000 — this is a huge loophole in our system that’s attracting more and more people, as more and more people understand that, under previous policies, if they enter the country unlawfully, that nothing will happen,” Sessions said.
The attorney general denied that children are being abused or kept in inhumane conditions, saying that the Department of Health and Human Services spent approximately a billion dollars last year taking care of children caught crossing the border.
“We are taking care of these children; they are not being abused,” Sessions added. “We’ve had a big surge of families bringing children or some adults bringing children with them.”
In response to critics who have compared immigrant detention centers to Nazi Germany, Sessions said “we need to be rational and thoughtful” about the situation.
“In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” Sessions said, drawing a contrast that was criticized on Twitter as being tone deaf.
Asked whether children are being separated as part of an intentional deterrence policy to discourage illegal immigration, Sessions suggested fewer border crossings could be a positive result of the administration’s zero-tolerance stance.
“Fundamentally, we are enforcing the law,” Sessions said. “Hopefully people will get the message … and not break across the border unlawfully.”
Sessions had touted the possible deterrent effect of separating children in announcing the administration’s new zero-tolerance policy, saying adults should not bring children across the border from Mexico.
Concerning complaints from top House GOP members that the DOJ and FBI have been slow to produce documents concerning political bias in their investigations, Sessions also said that “we have a responsibility to respond to Congress” and vowed to be responsive to their subpoenas.
Earlier Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas announced a plan to introduce comprehensive “emergency legislation” designed to end unnecessary separations of illegal immigrant children from their parents.
The bill, an answer to President Trump’s call for a congressional solution to the situation, would double the number of immigration judges to 750 and mandate that illegal immigrant families be kept together, unless there has been “aggravated criminal conduct” or threat of harm to the children, according to Cruz’s office.
Cruz’s bill would also authorize new temporary shelters for immigrant families, and provide for expedited resolution of asylum claims within 14 days.
On Monday, all 49 Senate Democrats announced their support for the Keep Families Together Act. That bill has a different, even higher standard for separating kids at the border, and calls for an accountability report on asylum claims.
It does not contain an equivalent to Cruz’s provisions to accelerate the asylum application process or to deploy more judges.
Under current law, adults can be separated from their families as soon as criminal proceedings against them are commenced.
The Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy had led to an increase in these prosecutions.
But the administration has consistently said that the so-called Flores consent decree — crafted during former President Bill Clinton’s administration — is what prohibits them from keeping parents and children together during these prosecutions, by limiting how long children can remain in federal custody.
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Sessions rebukes critics who compare border situation to Nazi Germany: ‘Fundamentally, we’re enforcing the law’
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