President Donald Trump said former Attorney General William Barr was his “first choice since day one” to replace Jeff Sessions as his new attorney general, both men favoring pro-enforcement policies regarding immigration.
Barr served as attorney general for the late President George H.W. Bush’s administration between 1991 and 1993, bringing a hard-on-crime touch to the immigration issue and implementing a series of reforms to reduce illegal immigration to the United States.
At this time, border and immigration enforcement was managed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), a faction of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The agency was previously a part of the Department of Labor and in 2003 was absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In February 1991, a year when illegal Southwest border crossings had peaked over a million, Barr announced a slew of new initiatives, including the hiring of 300 U.S. Border Patrol agents to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking at the border.
Barr also sought to add 200 additional investigators to the INS, 150 of whom were tasked with locating and deporting criminal illegal aliens and working on street gang task forces in major cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, and Miami.
The other 50 INS investigators were to go after U.S. companies hiring illegal aliens over American citizens, the largest driver of illegal immigration.
In 1992, Barr created the National Criminal Alien Tracking Center, devoting $1.5 million in INS funding to “permit law enforcement agencies to contact INS 24 hours a day to identify, locate and track criminal aliens.”
During an Appropriations Committee hearing in 1992, Barr requested increased funding to open a detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border to house illegal border crossers who were awaiting immigration hearings. In addition to the added detention space, Barr demanded millions in new funding to hire personnel to help mitigate what he called “the growing criminal alien problem.”
Barr, much like Sessions and Trump, advocated for more treaties between the U.S. and foreign countries to deport convicted criminal illegal aliens to their native nations. And when it came to the number of criminal illegal aliens in federal prison, Barr took great issue with the booming foreign population in prison.
During an April 1992 speech, Barr decried the increasing number of criminal foreigners taking up space in federal prisons, calling it a “major issue” facing the country.
“Twenty-five percent of the inmates in federal prisons are non-U.S. citizens, as are a substantial number of those in state prisons and local jails,” Barr said at the time.
“The problem is particularly serious in some states, such as California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois,” Barr continued. “We could free up thousands of prison beds if we got rid of those criminals who are not citizens and who have no right to be in the country.”
Barr said the issue should be dealt with in four ways: stop illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border; speed up the deportations of illegal aliens once they are out of prison; more quickly deport criminal illegal aliens with non-violent offenses and increase the illegal re-entry fines against them; and, lastly, send criminal illegal aliens to their native countries to finish their prison sentence.
At a luncheon in Los Angeles, California, Barr vowed tough penalties for illegal immigration:
“In our stepped-up efforts to deport those who crash our borders, criminal aliens will be the first to go,” Barr told a California Town Hall lunch in Los Angeles. “And even those who enter legally and then commit crime will forfeit their privilege to stay.
“We will not tolerate aliens who come here to prey on the American people,” Barr said in announcing that he is making criminal immigrants a priority target of the Justice Department.
Much of the reforms that Barr attempted to bring to the DOJ during his tenure overlap with Sessions’ goals.
Sessions made wide-sweeping reforms at the U.S.-Mexico border, tightening the country’s asylum laws to stem the flow of Central Americans arriving with ineligible claims, advocating tirelessly for a border wall while also building a legal wall against mass migration, and, most famously, going after sanctuary city jurisdictions that shield illegal aliens from deportation.
Barr praised those reforms in a Washington Post op-ed following the former Alabama senator’s resignation in November, calling Sessions’ tenure as attorney general “outstanding.”
“Sessions set four goals for his tenure: to reduce the rates of murder, violent crime generally, opioid prescription fraud and drug overdose deaths. He achieved all four,” Barr wrote in the op-ed with former Attorney Generals Edwin Meese III and Michael B. Mukasey.
“He attacked the rampant illegality that riddled our immigration system, breaking the record for prosecution of illegal-entry cases and increasing by 38 percent the prosecution of deported immigrants who reentered the country illegally,” Barr wrote of Sessions’ immigration crackdown.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.