Senator Jeff Sessions

News Releases

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, delivered the following prepared remarks today regarding the urgent need for the Senate to consider House-passed legislation to block the President's planned executive amnesty and grant of mass work authorizations:

“The immigration policies of President Obama are having a devastating effect on the classical American goal of a fair, lawful system of immigration that serves the national interests. He has directed federal immigration officers not to enforce plain law. He meets privately with pro-amnesty, open borders groups, and special interest business groups and promises to take even more action to erase law.

Unfortunately our fine enforcement officers are excluded from the discussion. The President’s actions evidence no policy or guiding principle that is sustainable.

Now, the heretofore largely covert actions by the President are open and blatant. He has told the world that with a stroke of his pen, he will, by presidential directive, by executive action, provide legal status to 5 to 6 million persons unlawfully present in the United States. All this contrary to long-established law. But, there is more. He has said that he will issue them photo identification cards with, astoundingly, work authorization permits.

Surely we know that the President cannot make law. Congress makes law. As chief executive, the President executes, carries out, and enforces law. This we learn in grade school. This constitutional construct is not a small matter. It is the mechanism by which this nation conducts its governmental business. Through this method, the people control their government. Allowing any president to nullify law is a threat to the future of our Republic and the power of the people.

That is why I have urged President Obama to reconsider this plan—and to adhere to his plain statements where he expressly stated that he did not have the power to do what he now, in a complete reversal, states he will do. As compiled by FOX News:

President Obama: November 25, 2013

“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.”

President Obama: March 28, 2011

“With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.”

President Obama: September 28, 2011

“I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true. But we live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it.”

I know this is a somewhat postmodern time where many believe words have no meaning except as they advance one’s agenda of the day. But, such approaches are wholly inconsistent with the founding concepts of America. We were founded on the belief that words do have meaning, that sound principles must be adhered to, and that truth is real and must be sought.

While we debate many issues and good people can disagree, surely we can all agree that at this moment we are in the United States Senate chamber and that it’s daylight outside. Those are matters not for debate else we are indeed through the “looking glass.” Likewise, surely it’s not a matter of debate, among Democrat or Republican, that the President cannot make law or nullify law. He just cannot.

Thus, we must in unity call on President Obama not to go through with his stated desire to eviscerate long and duly established American immigration law. What law might the next president ignore, bend, or nullify?

It is said that he has ordered his lawyers and officials to tell him how he may carry out such actions before the end of the summer. Apparently, he did not ask them whether he had such power, but he ordered them to develop a plan to do that which the law does not allow.

Mr. President, frustration and pique can result in hasty and unwise decisions. Please do not do this. And, to the officials and lawyers who have received this directive, you must always remember that your first duty is to the Constitution and the nation’s laws. Our history has been littered with events when officials have had to stand up for the Constitution and tell the President “no.” Usually, after a time, they cool down and back off. That’s what you must do now.

We must avoid the turmoil and acrimony that such lawless executive action will bring. The nation must not add another bitter controversy to the ones existing.

My remarks are not in the nature of negotiation or compromise. To yield on important principles in order to avoid a threatened unlawful action can never be honorable. To do so is to capitulate to intimidation. So Mr. President, we, the peoples’ representatives, will not be intimidated. We cannot yield. Our duty is clear. To defend the duly established and moral immigration laws of this country, while at the same time defending the constitutional order of this nation.

After due consideration, the House of Representatives, in a bipartisan vote, has sent to the Senate legislation that will bar you or your executive branch subordinates from expending any funds to carry out any executive amnesty or work authorizations. That action is right, just, and a product of plain duty.

Now, it is time for the Senate to consider and concur.

The people are discovering the magnitude of this proposed presidential overreach. They will not accept it, Sir. They will defend their law and the limits they have placed on their leaders. 

So, let cool heads prevail. Reconsider, Mr. President. Do not stain your presidency with this overreach.

[Yet t]his Sunday, White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer repeated the Obama Administration’s warning of an impending executive action on immigration. Mr. Pfeiffer said this action would come at “the end of summer.” 

According to repeated and multiple news reports, these executive actions could provide administrative “legal” papers and work permits to up to 5–6 million illegal immigrants—in clear contravention of federal law. 

If these actions are taken, we will have effectively opened the borders of America. We are nearly there already.

Consider:

  • Millions of people come to America every year on visas. Currently, if you overstay a visa, there is no legal consequence. No one is coming to get you. If you get a student visa and drop out, or you come on a work visa and it expires, or you just come on a tourist visa and never leave, you are allowed to stay. And the Congressional Budget Office said in analyzing the Gang Of Eight bill that came through the Senate, that as much as 40 percent of the illegality in America today is the result of visa overstays. They also projected that that was going to increase in the years to come.
  • If you get past Border Patrol and settle in the interior of the country, you are also allowed to stay. As the President’s former ICE Director, John Sandgweg, explained: “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero.” In order to be deported from the interior, you basically have to commit a serious criminal offense. Otherwise, you are mostly free to enter illegally, work illegally, and even collect benefits like the Additional Child Tax Credit. Chris Crane, head of the ICE Officers’ Association, testified before Congress that:

“Most Americans would be surprised to know that immigration agents are regularly prohibited from enforcing the two most fundamental sections of United States immigration law. According to ICE policy, in most cases immigration agents can no longer arrest persons solely for entering the United States illegally. Additionally, in most cases immigration agents cannot arrest persons solely because they have entered the United States with a visa and then overstayed that visa and failed to return to their country. Essentially, only individuals charged or convicted of very serious criminal offenses by other law enforcement agencies may be arrested or charged by ICE agents and officers for illegal entry or overstay.”

  • If you show up at the border and simply turn yourself in, you are often released into the interior of the country. A recent article interviewed a 27-year-old illegal immigrant from Honduras. The paper wrote that he had “arrived in Freehold Borough 15 days ago from Honduras.” The article says he “left behind his parents and 10 brothers and sisters,” but “he is hoping his family will join him in America at some point in the future.”
  • Once illegal immigrants have been released into the interior, they frequently do not show up for court hearings. National Review reports:

“In one day at a Los Angeles immigration court last week, Judge Ashley Tabaddor heard the cases of nearly 40 illegal immigrant minors, but none of the children appeared in court, according to the Los Angeles Times. In each case, the illegal immigrant minor was thought to have settled elsewhere, and the judge reportedly decided not to deport the children in absentia. Instead, Tabaddor—who declined to speak with National Review, citing Justice Department policy—reportedly issued change-of-venue orders in each case.”

  • But there are more ways into the U.S. illicitly. Our asylum system is plagued by fraud. The House Judiciary Committee reports:

“Asylum approval rates overall have increased dramatically in recent years. Approval rates by asylum officers have increased from 28% in 2007 to 46% in 2013 and approval rates by immigration judges in affirmative cases have increased from 51% in 2007 to 74% in 2013. Combining both of these approval rates, the vast majority of aliens who affirmatively seek asylum are now successful in their claims. This does not even take into account appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals or federal courts. At the same time, an internal Department of Homeland Security report shows that at least 70% of asylum cases contain proven or possible fraud.”

And remember, all of these entries are in addition to the huge flow of annual permanent immigration into the U.S., as well as temporary work authorization. Between 2000 and today, the U.S. government issued nearly 30 million lawful visas for individuals and their relatives to either live permanently in the U.S. or to come and take a job.

Now consider what will happen to our system if the President goes through with his plan to provide work authorization to another 5 million people living illegally in the United States. What immigration law will be left? The government is not enforcing visa overstays, illegal entry, illegal work, or asylum fraud. And now the President is just going to start printing millions of work permits for people illegally in the country—after Congress loudly declared “NO”?

Anyone ICE officers come into contact with will simply assert protections and eligibility under the new action. Well, if there are 11 million, 12 million people here today, what happens to the other five million to six million? Well, any ICE officer that comes in contact with them, these individuals will assert that they’re entitled to the protections and eligibility under the new executive action. And new illegal immigrants will flood across—as they did after the President’s executive amnesty for people under the age of 30—waiting until this President or the next grants them their work privileges in the United States. Illegal immigrants won’t even have to wait for Congress to pass amnesty.

Again, what immigration law will be left? The President has simply decided—on his own, without Congress or legal authority—that the immigration laws protecting the jobs and wages of U.S. workers don’t exist anymore. The President has taken it upon himself to decide who can enter the U.S. and who can work in the U.S.—by the millions—regardless of what laws have been passed. The President talks often of justice, but one of the gravest injustices that has been done is to deny the American people the protections of their own laws.

But my message to the American people today is this: you can stop this. We can stop it together. We will not let this stand.

And that fight begins with a vote on the House-passed bill to block this new executive action. The Senate cannot be allowed to surrender to the President’s lawlessness. It cannot. I am calling today on every Senator to support this bill, and to demand Majority Leader Reid call it up for a vote.

Let me share a message with my friends on the other side of the aisle. Each of you will have to decide whether you work for Majority Leader Reid, or whether you work for your constituents. Will you protect their jobs and their borders? Will you demand your Senate Leader bring this House bill up for a vote? If you oppose these executive actions, there is only one way to demonstrate it: support the House bill and demand it receive a vote in the Senate.

And to every member of the public, red state or blue state or purple state, call your Senator and ask them where they stand. Ask them if they support the House bill to block executive amnesty and if they will demand it receive a vote. You are a citizen of this country and you are entitled to a clear answer to this question.”