Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly made a joint appearance in El Paso, Texas Thursday to tout the new administration’s border security efforts.
The joint address to the media adds DHS support to the slew of Justice Department directives Sessions announced last week. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services all fall under Secretary Kelly’s authority and he will play a central role in any implementation of President Donald Trump’s administration plans at the border. Standing beside Sessions, Kelly told the press:
Both the Attorney General and I are serious about border security and enforcing our immigration laws. In accordance with the Executive Orders signed earlier this year, we have ended dangerous “catch and release” enforcement policies. We have significantly increased detainers for deportation. And we have arrested more criminal aliens.
Both men emphasized the importance of inter-departmental cooperation in tackling the porous southern border. Kelly noted:
DHS and DOJ are working together to improve this process. At DHS, we’re working to expand our detention capacity, and process immigration cases as close to the southern border as possible. DOJ has already deployed additional immigration judges from the interior of the country to handle border-related cases.
This message was reinforced by the Attorney General. “Through the strong leadership of President Trump and Secretary Kelly, we have already made incredible progress and have seen the lowest number of border crossings in at least 17 years,” he said.
Despite the progress made so far, Kelly dismissed a journalist’s suggestion that President Donald Trump’s signature border wall was no longer necessary, calling it “absolutely essential.”
Kelly also hit back at a question about the deportation of so-called DREAMer and four-times convicted criminal Juan Manuel Montes. The deportation of Montes, an enrollee of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy to provide amnesty to illegal aliens who came to the United States in childhood, has received substantial play across the mainstream media.
“There was a time in his life when this individual was a DACA registrant,” Kelly told the reporter, “but he gave that up by his behavior and by his illegal actions.” He went on to call DACA an “arrangement” of Obama’s. “To the best of my knowledge, he has been returned to Mexico,” Kelly said.
The speeches both made strong appeals to the rule of law in the immigration arena. “People who illegally cross our borders do not respect the laws of our nation,” Kelly proclaimed. Sessions added, “We will maintain our borders, we will enforce Congress’s duly enacted laws, and we will protect our communities from the scourge of cartels and gangs. These are not merely aspirational words, but these are bedrock principals of sovereignty.”
The new focus on transnational criminal organizations showed through in recent statements by both Trump cabinet members. In El Paso, Sessions resumed his attacks on the brutal MS-13 gang:
As I learned first-hand last week in Nogales, it is here, on this sliver of land where we establish a beachhead against the cartels, the transnational street gangs like Mara Salvatrucha 13, and the human traffickers. This is ground zero – this is the front lines, and this is where we take our stand.
Kelly, for his part, devoted a major speech to discussing transnational criminal organizations on Tuesday.