During his confirmation hearing for Attorney General on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Sen. Jeff Sessions said that even though President-elect Donald Trump would need to agree on a repeal of President Obama’s Deferred for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, the Alabama Republican said that a call to end the order “would certainly be constitutional.”
Sessions’ remarks came during his exchange with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
Graham: Now we got 800,000 people who have come out of the shadows that have been signed up. Will you advise the next president, President Trump, to repeal that executive order?
Sessions: That will be a decision that needs to be studied and he would need to agree to. But it’s an executive order, really a memorandum, of the Department of Homeland Security. It would certainly be constitutional, I believe, to end that order. And the Department of Justice, I think, could have no objection to abandon that order, because it is very questionable, in my opinion, constitutionally.
When Graham —who is co-sponsoring a Bridge Act with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that proposes three years of protection for DACA recipients— asked a follow-up question to Sessions about what the federal government should do to the individuals who applied for DACA, Sessions said that it was important for his Senate colleagues to “fix this immigration system.”
“We’ve entered more and more millions of people illegally into the country,” Sessions added. “Each one of them produces some sort of humanitarian concern. But it is particularly true for children. So we’ve been placed in a bad situation. I really would urge us all to work together. I would try to be supportive to end the illegality and put us in a position where we can wrestle with how to handle these difficult, compassionate decisions.”
Sessions then agreed with Graham’s assertion that pushing for immigration legislation would be the best way to address the issue, although when the 2013 Gang of Eight bipartisan immigration reform bill passed the Senate, Sessions opposed the bill. The Alabama senator has also earned an A+ grade from Numbers USA’s Immigration-Reduction Report Card.
In 2012, President Obama announced the DACA program through executive action, and since then, anywhere between 750,000 and 800,000 Dreamers have received two-year work permits and a shield from deportation. President-elect Trump has already promised to reverse Obama’s DACA action. He also said he would deport two to three million undocumented immigrants.
Minutes after the exchange with Graham, Durbin also asked Sessions about his position on DACA and DACA recipients under a Trump administration.
Durbin: What’s going to happen to those 800,000 if you revoke that order and they are subject to deportation tomorrow. What is going to happen to them? What is the humane, legal answer to that?
Sessions: Well, the first thing I would say is that my response to Senator Graham dealt with whose responsibility this is. I had a responsibility as a member of this body to express my view and vote as I believe was correct on dealing with issues of immigration. That’s not the Attorney General’s role. The Attorney General’s role is to enforce the law. And as you know, Senator Durbin, we’re not able financially or any other way to seek out and remove everybody that’s in the country illegally. President Trump has indicated that criminal aliens, like President Obama indicated, certainly are the top group of people. And so, I would think that the best thing for us to do, and I would urge colleagues that we understand this, let’s fix this system. And then we can work together after this lawlessness has been ended, and then we could ask the American people and enter into a dialogue about how to compassionately treat people who have been here a long time.
Durbin: That does not answer the question about 800,000 that would be left in the lurch, whose lives would be ruined while you’re waiting on Congress for a bill that you opposed.
Sessions: Well, I thought it did answer it pretty closely that what you asked, and I understand your concerns.