Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks on Efforts to Combat Violent Crime

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Tim, for that generous introduction and thank you for your service in this office.  You’re helping to lead federal law enforcement in one of the biggest districts in America—covering over 44,000 square miles across 44 counties and serving 8.3 million people.

Before I go further, I want to recognize a champion of the law enforcement community that is here with us today: Chairman John Culberson.

Chairman Culberson is the leader of the powerful Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.  

That is the panel that funds the Department of Justice and our law enforcement activities—all of the work that you do.  When we ask for help in our fight against opioid addiction, lawlessness at the border, sanctuary cities, gangs and violent crime in America, John Culberson has supported our efforts.

Let me give you an example.  Back in June, the Department proposed an ambitious plan to hire 300 new Assistant United States Attorneys across the country.  It’s the biggest surge of federal prosecutors in decades.  Not only did Chairman Culberson help make it a reality, he insisted that we add 20 more AUSAs to focus on the opioid epidemic.  I’m also grateful for the Chairman’s work to boost funding for our Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative this year and next year.  

That funding would pay dividends in safer streets and peace of mind for the American people.  Mr. Chairman, thank you for your support and thank you for being here today.

I also want to welcome my good friend Congressman Lamar Smith.  Congressman Smith has served on the House Judiciary Committee for a long time—he’s a former chairman—and we’ve worked together on many issues.  He’s been a strong supporter of law enforcement, of border security, and a lawful system of immigration.  Congressman, we’re going to miss you next year.  Thank you for your nearly 37 years of service to the people of Texas. Lamar Smith is a true American patriot, who loves his country and served it honorably. 

We also have DOJ’s head of Legislative Affairs, Stephen Boyd with us.  Stephen, thank you for being here.

But above all—on behalf of President Donald Trump—I want to thank all of the federal law enforcement officers who are here:

  • Perry Turner of the FBI
  • Will Glaspy of DEA
  • Fred Milanowski
  • Deputy Marshal Richard Hunter
  • Doug Thigpen with Secret Service, and
  • Mark Dawson with our Homeland Security Inspectors.

And while we are inexpressibly proud of our fabulous federal officers, we also understand and appreciate the fact that 85 percent of the law enforcement officers in this country serve at the state and local levels.  It is simple arithmetic that we cannot succeed without you.

Thank you all for being here.  And on behalf of President Trump, thank you for your service.

President Trump is a law-and-order president.  He appreciates the work you do every day.

The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, the President sent me three executive orders that have guided me every day.  The first: to back the blue and enhance the safety of our law enforcement officers.  Second: to reduce crime in America—not to preside over ever-increasing crime levels.  And third: to dismantle transnational criminal organizations like the cartels.

And even before I was sworn in, President Trump issued an order to the Department of Justice to give a high priority to prosecutions that have a nexus to our Southern Border.

Those orders are my priorities—and they are the criminal justice priorities of this President.

They’re also the priorities of the American people.

Law officers do heroic work that enables us to live in peace.

Officers are giving their lives as they work to keep innocent people safe—even the protesters who treat them with disdain and the politicians who call them names.

Every time an officer in the United States dies in the line of duty, it comes across my desk.  And as a small expression of my appreciation, I send a condolence letter to their families.

Back in February, we lost Officer David Sherrard of Richardson, Texas.  He was called to a scene where a man had been shot.  Officers found the suspect, who then shot Officer Sherrard, fatally wounding him.  Officer Sherrard left behind his wife—who was his high school sweetheart—and two daughters who are now in junior high school.

In April, Dallas police Officer Rogelio Santander was called to a hardware store when an off-duty officer detained a man wanted for a felony.  Officer Santander arrived as backup and the suspect opened fire and shot him, another officer, and a loss prevention officer.  Officer Santander died from his wounds the next day.

And let’s not forget: it wasn’t that long ago that his fellow Dallas police officers were being hunted down and assassinated.

And so I wanted to be here to tell you that the President and I support you.  We respect you.  And we value your work.

We know whose side we’re on.  We’re on the side of law enforcement.

Policing has always been dangerous work.  But over the last 30 years, unchecked illegal immigration has made the work of police officers all across America tougher and more dangerous than it ought to be.

According to one estimate, Houston has the third-most illegal aliens of any metro area in America.  Half a million illegal aliens are in the Houston area.

This is a big group and many of them have committed additional crimes here. 

Whatever we think about immigration—whether you want more or less—all of us should agree on these two goals: to end illegal immigration and to end illegal immigration crime. 

We cannot accept the fact that gangs like MS-13 and the Latin Kings, many of whose members are in the country illegally, are terrorizing American communities from Los Angeles to Boston. Many MS-13 leaders are directing crime and murders from jails in El Salvador. 

Right here in Houston, an MS-13 member gunned down 28-year old Hector Diaz.  That gang member has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.

The victim in that case was a legal immigrant from Honduras.  America is blessed with so many lawful immigrants, but they too deserve to be protected from violent criminal aliens. 

One MS-13 member here in Houston was charged with murder, put in jail, and then allegedly ordered from jail a hit on one of the witnesses against him.  He is now facing a possible death sentence—and that witness, a teenager, is now dead.

And, of course, the people of this city remember Genesis Cornejo-Alvarado, the 15-year old girl from Jersey Village found shot to death in west Houston.  

A man driving his kids to school found her body lying on the curb the next morning.  The two men charged with her killing are MS-13 members who are in this country illegally.

This should be obvious, but if we want to reduce violent crime in this country, then we have to get serious about illegal immigration.

And if we’re going to get serious about illegal immigration, then we cannot tolerate sanctuary cities.

Jurisdictions that knowingly, willfully, and purposefully release criminal aliens back into their communities are sacrificing the lives and safety of American citizens in the pursuit of an extreme open borders policy.  

If a jurisdiction objects to and obstructs the lawful deportation of someone who enters illegally and then commits another crime—then who will they deport?  Nobody.

This isn’t just a bad policy. It is a direct challenge to the laws of the United States.  It places the lives of our fine law enforcement officers and residents at risk.

Those enacting the sanctuary policies feign outrage when they lose federal funds as a direct result of deliberate actions designed to nullify plain federal law.

They want to have it both ways: they want federal money but they want to undermine federal law.

Some have even decided to take us to court.

But we are fighting this resolutely—and we’ve received a lot of support from the people of Texas.

Earlier this week, the state of Texas, seven Texas mayors, and one former mayor joined together to file a brief in court in support of our efforts to channel funding to jurisdictions that cooperate with federal law enforcement rather than to those which don’t.

Chairman Culberson has been a leader on this issue.  He has been fighting for this for years now, and he helped to bring about the Inspector General audit that showed the legal basis for channeling grant funding to cooperative cities, counties, and states.

It should be common sense: we cannot continue giving federal law enforcement grants to cities that actively undermine the safety of federal law officers and intentionally frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities.

Our duties are to follow the law, protect public safety, and protect taxpayer dollars.  I plan to fulfill those duties.

The vast majority of Americans oppose “sanctuary” policies.  According to one poll, 80 percent of Americans believe that cities should turn over criminal aliens to immigration officials.

The American people are not asking too much, and neither is the Department of Justice.  Federal law enforcement wants to work with our partners at the state and local level.

If these cities want to receive law enforcement grants, then they should stop impeding federal law enforcement.

In Texas, you have spoken clearly on this issue.

I want to commend the state legislature for passing Senate Bill Four with strong majorities in both chambers, and thank Governor Abbott for signing it into law.

As you all know, earlier this year, the Fifth Circuit delivered a preliminary decision that upheld nearly all of this law, delivering a major victory for the rule of law and our efforts to ensure the detention of criminal aliens.  

We believe that the outcome is important not just to the state of Texas, but to the national interest.  The integrity of our immigration laws is not a local issue—it is a national issue.

And so, to every so-called “sanctuary” jurisdiction: I would urge you to reconsider your policies.  They risk the safety of good law enforcement officers and the safety of the neighborhoods that need their protection the most.  There are lives and livelihoods at stake.

To our elected representative in Congress: let’s actually do something to help our law officers by ending illegal immigration.

And to all the law enforcement here—federal, state, and local—thank you for all that you do.  President Trump is grateful; I am grateful, and the entire Department of Justice is grateful for your service.  

You can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.

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Author: August 10, 2018

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