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Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions On Immigration, And Whether Events In Boston Will Have An Effect

Saturday, April 20, 2013

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HH: Joined now by United States Senator Jeff Sessions. Senator, thank you for joining us on a busy Friday afternoon.

JS: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: It’s been a traumatic week for the country. I wonder if you’ve had any briefings today on whether or not the threat that we continue to watch being pursued in Boston is larger than just these two young terrorists.

JS: I have not been briefed on that, and I’m not aware of evidence to that effect. But I’m anxious to see how it’s, see if that is in fact true, because it’s a very important question, as you can imagine. We’ve got, we’re going to have, as a great nation, people like this going to be able to successfully do some attacks in the years to come, and we’ve just got to keep out poise, and be effective in capturing and destroying the people who do this. But it’s just going to be a constant threat, and we’ve got to be alert constantly.

HH: Senator, do we have enough resources, in your opinion, devoted to domestic law enforcement? I just got done talking with John Burns, London Bureau Chief of the New York Times, about how MI5 has just continually upped the amount of time, money, personnel that they devote to the investigation of domestic terror cells. Do you think the United States is doing enough?

JS: We may not be. We did some great work shortly after 9/11, but a good number of years have passed. And I think the Brits have seen, and they’ve had some real success in recent years intervening before attacks occur. So I’m a little uneasy that maybe our systems aren’t working very well. We’re not gathering the kind of intelligence you get from humans, from actual interrogation of suspects and arrested terrorists, and some of that is new policies about Miranda warnings and that kind of thing, treating them as normal law enforcement problems rather than people attacking the United States as an enemy.

HH: Senator, obviously the immigration reform debate is underway. Does the terrorist attack in Boston change the context in which that conversation will unfold? And if so, how?

JS: Yes, I think it does to some degree. We need to pay far more attention unto this aspect of it than I think has been occurred so far. The protestations of the sponsors of this bill, that we’re going to be a lot safer if the new bill is passed, I think is incorrect. The 9/11 Commission, in their analysis of what should be done, back then, they said we needed a biometric visa exit/entry system. This legislation said that was going to happen initially, but now we hear it’s not going to be biometric. It’s not going to cover land entries and exits. And therefore, it’s not, the experts have told us, that’s not going to be effective. So that has got, to me, I’ve always felt that this should happen. It was a law that actually has been passed 15 or more years to have a biometric entry/exit system, and it could easily be done. But the powers that be just have refused to complete the system.

HH: Well, that sounds like an amendment.

JS: That’s the problem we have with immigration so much. You have the promises, laws even get passed, and they don’t get completed.

HH: I want to stay for a moment on the biometric system. Will you offer an amendment to require that as a condition of regularization of the population that’s not here legally? And if such an amendment passed, would you be willing to support the bill?

JS: Oh, that’s not the defining issue in the bill for me. But I’m sure I or someone will offer something to that effect, yes.

HH: One of the defining issues for me…

JS: It’s a weakness in the bill that’s been pretty obvious since the beginning.

HH: One of the defining issues for me, Senator, is that border fencing, double fencing with access roads, was supposed to have been built in 2006 to a minimum of 700 miles. That hasn’t happened. The border’s 2,000 miles long. At least half of it ought to be covered that way. Is fencing going to be also a critical part of the discussion going forward when it comes to the security aspect of immigration?

JS: We’ll make, absolutely, it’s got to be a part of it, but I will just tell you, we’ve read the bill since it was introduced at 2AM the other morning, and it only requires that Secretary Napolitano to, within six months, now this is after everybody’s been legalized, after, in effect, the amnesty has commenced, that she would submit a report on fencing, and a fencing plan. But she’s already said we don’t need any more fencing. And another point to your listeners that’s so important, that’s why we’ve said you should have enforcement first, we passed a law. My law said we should build that fencing you just made a reference to. Then we realized they weren’t going to appropriate the money to build it. And I raised a stink and mocked them, really, for voting for a fence and then deliberately not funding it, and misrepresenting to the American people. So they voted to fund it. And it still hasn’t been built.

HH: You see, that is…

JS: Only 30 miles of what we required has been built.

HH: How much, Senator?

JS: 30 miles of double fencing is all that’s been built.

HH: Wow.

JS: 36, I think.

HH: Wow.

JS: And there’s some, well, they’ve got vehicle barriers and stuff like that, they’ve tried to count. They counted the UAV’s and stuff as a virtual fence. But it proved to be a total waste of money. So I just would say I know people want to see this issue settled, and so do I. And I respect my colleagues who want to try to do something. But we’ve got to be realistic that the goal for a lot of people here it just to get this amnesty done. And we’ve got to be sure that is there are commitments in the future for enforcement, we make them happen. And the best way to do that is to have the enforcement in place first.

HH: Well, it does seem to me possible. You’re the legislator, Senator, but it seems to me possible to write a law that mandates, notwithstanding any other law, that fencing be built, and biometric systems be in place before a single purple card or W visa, or any kind of status is issued to anyone, and that it’s self-executing, that it cannot be waived. That’s not a hard law to write. And if it in fact the sponsors are committed to regularization of the 11-14 million, that’s a price that everybody should want to pay given the security needs of the country. I don’t understand what the debate is.

JS: Well, I don’t, either. This is a good question. Let me just tell you my experience since I’ve been involved in the Judiciary Committee on this issue. Every time legislation is brought up that will actually work, and make a real positive difference, there’s a fierce resistance, and it almost never passes. There’s just a group of people that I guess they believe in open borders, though they just can’t, don’t have the will to step forward and do the things that would actually work. But we could do that. But our reading of the bill as proposed by the Gang of 8 does not have those kind of teeth in it. The fencing issue is one of them. The promise of a biometric entry/exit visa system is not in the bill.

HH: Then amendments have to be forthcoming, and Senator, we’ll check in with you early and often as those amendments are offered. I’m so glad to hear Senator Rubio say on this show on Monday or Tuesday, the more, the merrier when the amendments come. Let’s get them out there and pass them. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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