A picture of Senator Jeff Sessions
Jefferson S.
Republican AL

About Sen. Jefferson
  • Immigration Reform

    by Senator Jeff Sessions

    Posted on 2013-01-29

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    SESSIONS. Mr. President, as we consider the serious issue of immigration reform, it is important for us to understand where we are as a country with regard to the laws we have and how they are being enforced. I will share some thoughts about that today because the American people and Members of Congress need to fully understand what is happening. It is well documented that the Obama administration has either unilaterally weakened or outright waived the enforcement of existing immigration law at the border, in the interior, at the worksite and at the welfare office. That is just a fact.

    Last year, I joined with my colleagues at a press conference with the top representatives of the Nation's rank-and-file immigration law enforcement officers--the presidents of the ICE--Immigration, Customs and Enforcement--and Border Patrol unions. Those men, who are elected to serve as the voice of their fellow officers, gave a chilling report at that press conference--right over in the Senate building, with several other Senators--they gave a chilling report about the administration's systematic effort to dismantle the enforcement of our Nation's immigration laws. It is not just an effort, it is an effective plan and action to do so.

    At the center of this misconduct is John Morton, the Director of ICE. The evidence I am about to share with you leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that Mr. Morton can no longer effectively serve at this post and, perhaps more importantly, there can be no comprehensive immigration reform as long as he is the person charged with enforcing it. What purpose is served to pass new laws if the ones we have are ignored by the officials charged with enforcing them? This timeline shows how Mr. Morton and the administration have undermined enforcement. Most Americans do not fully understand the real effect of these immigration policies. In reality, right now, if a State law enforcement officer apprehends someone for [[Page S337]] speeding and discovers, for example, that he is illegally in the country, the result is that nothing happens. They do not even bother to call the Federal law enforcement officers to report they have apprehended someone who is in violation of our immigration law. And the reason they do not call is because nobody will come and get them.

    This is something I have discovered over a number of years. When I was attorney general of Alabama, and for 12 years, the top Federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Alabama, the U.S. attorney, and I discovered how the system works--and it is not working. What happens is they release them. At townhall meetings I would ask the people who showed up, citizens: What happens if your local police officer apprehends someone who is illegally in the country? They say they call the Federal people or they arrest them and take them to jail. The answer is, no, they do not; they release them. That is what they do because the system is utterly broken and not working.

    Let me run through a series of events that have occurred in the last several years that further undermine the ability of America to enforce its laws. Let me just say, parenthetically, the only way to have a real effective law enforcement system is to welcome support and affirm the willingness of local law enforcement to participate and assist. There are, for example, some 600,000 State and local law officers out there every day enforcing our laws, protecting their communities. There are far fewer, maybe 15,000 or 30,000 Federal officers, dealing with immigration. The real eyes and ears in law enforcement in America are those State and local people. States have been sued by this administration for even attempting to assist. This administration is denying and refusing to renew the cooperative agreements that are necessary for Federal and State and local authorities to work together to effectively enforce the laws of our country, and this is what is causing our problem.

    Let me run through some of these areas and problems that have occurred recently. I may not be able to finish, and I will make the rest of my remarks available in the Record. In a 2010 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Director Morton announced ICE may not even process or accept illegal aliens transferred to the agency's custody by Arizona officials. They were not happy with Arizona, presumably, so they would not even accept people local law enforcement turned over.

    On May 27, 2010, an ICE e-mail revealed that low-risk, short-term detainees would be able to have visitors stay for an unlimited amount of time during a 12-hour window, would be given access to unmonitored phone lines, e-mails, and free internet calling. They would also be entertained with movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance and cooking classes, tutoring and computer training.

    On June 25, 2010, the National ICE Council, the union that represents more than 7,000 detention and removal agents within ICE, cast a unanimous vote of no confidence in Director Morton. According to the officers, their vote reflects ``the growing dissatisfaction among ICE employees and union leaders that Director Morton . . . has abandoned the agency's core mission of enforcing United States immigration laws and enforcing public safety and have, instead, directed [his] attention to campaigning for programs and policies leading to amnesty. . . .'' That is not a good thing for the chief immigration law enforcement officer of the country, for his people, the rank and file, putting their necks on the line every day, issuing such a report--and it is true. Unfortunately, it is. In August of 2010, ICE began circulating a draft policy that would significantly limit the circumstances under which ICE agents would take custody of illegal aliens. The memo provides that immigration officers shall issue detainers or official notification to law enforcement agencies that ICE intends to assume custody of the alien only after a law enforcement agency has independently arrested the alien for a criminal violation.

    A detainer is a big deal. A detainer, if anyone understands how law enforcement works, is a critical component of modern law enforcement. If a State has a charge against an individual, or if the Federal Government has a claim against an individual being held by a different law enforcement agency, they place a detainer on that person and when the arresting jurisdiction completes its work with the person, they are not released on the streets; they are detained until they are turned over to the other legitimate law enforcement agency that has pending charges. If we do not have that, dangerous criminals are released, and it is really an improvement in law enforcement over the last 50 years.

    This is a diminishment of that, significantly. In effect, no longer will ICE pick up an illegal alien for illegally entering the country or having false identification, or false immigration documents, if they are being held by State and local people for some local crime.

    On October 8, 2010--according to ICE deportation statistics, from October 2009 through September 2010, the agency deported 390,000 aliens. But most, half of those at least, were people who were convicted of serious criminal offenses, independent of the immigration violations.

    On December 6, 2010, interviews and internal communications cited in the Washington Post indicated that number, 390,000, was a padded number. First, the article charged that ICE included almost 20,000 removals in fiscal year 2010 that were for the previous year and should not have been counted. It also described how ICE extended a Mexican repatriation program beyond its normal operating dates, which, in effect, added 6,500 removals to the numbers that were not properly added.

    On March 2, 2011, in a departmental memorandum, Director Morton outlined new enforcement priorities that encouraged ICE agents not to enforce the law against most illegal aliens but only to take action against those who meet his priorities. Director Morton issued a second memorandum on June 17, 2011, further directing ICE agents to refrain from enforcing U.S. immigration laws against certain segments of the illegal population, criteria similar to that under the DREAM Act, despite having no legal or congressional authority to do so and despite the fact that the DREAM Act was three times defeated in Congress.

    What they did was they altered the enforcement policies of the Federal immigration officers to effect the DREAM Act that had been explicitly offered and rejected in Congress on three different occasions.

    On June 17, 2011, Director Morton issued a third memorandum, instructing ICE personnel to consider refraining from enforcing the law against individuals engaged in a protected activity---- The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has used 12 minutes.

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