At Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson that the Obama administration’s “lack of will” to enforce the country’s immigration laws has led millions of potential illegal immigrants to believe they will not be deported if they find a way to enter the country.
“We see a lack of will in your department,” Sessions said, pointing out that the lack of will existed “before you took the office” and “from the president on down.”
Sessions, who chairs the Senate Judiciary’s Immigration and the National Interest subcommittee, listed off the numerous instances in which the Obama administration has deemphasized immigration enforcement.
Referring to visa overstays, Sessions said that “40% of the people here unlawfully today came lawfully and refused to leave on time, and we have no real ability to deal with that and have not taken steps required by law to deal with that.” He mentioned that President Barack Obama “stopped worksite inspection” in his first days in office and “basically threatened agents never again to do that” while canceling Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program that better enables state and local governments to work with the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the country’s immigration laws.
Sessions said that “sanctuary cities continue unabated” and “they don’t even honor your detainers.” And he wondered why the Obama administration is not “utilizing financial incentives” to push back.
He pointed out that the Obama administration has “cut back dramatically if not ended” the Operation Streamline program and reminded Johnson that deportations are down 41% over the last three years while 160,000 criminal aliens are on the streets. Sessions said that more foreign countries are refusing “to accept back people we are trying to deport”and suggested that “they shouldn’t have other citizens admitted here” if they do not accept their citizens that are being deported. Meanwhile, as Sessions noted, the United States government is flying people who qualify for parole and refugee status from Central American countries to America.
“All this has led millions to conclude that if they come here illegally, they’ll be successful,” he said. “We got to change that fundamentally.”
In addition, Sessions said that Obama’s “push for amnesty, continual discussion of it, his promise of it and his actual carrying out of executive amnesty” in defiance of Congress “has increased immigration unlawfully into the country.”
When Sessions asked Johnson “how many aliens with final orders of removal are currently in the United States,” Johnson, citing a “huge backlog,” answered, “a large number by your measure and mine–and it’s an unacceptable number.” Sessions also asked how many illegal immigrants who entered the country during last summer’s border crisis are in the United States, and Johnson promised that he would get the exact figure to him. Regarding the Obama administration’s new prioritization directive that further deemphasizes deporting illegal immigrants currently in the country, Sessions said “priority can also be an amnesty” because because it sends a message to illegal immigrants that, “if you don’t commit a serious crime, you’re OK, you’re not going to be deported.”