Attorney General Jeff Sessons came to the Slover Library in Norfolk last Friday to “deliver remarks on immigration priorities of the Administration,” according to the official media advisory.
The speech was introduced by a spokesperson, however, as dealing with “terrorism and immigration.” It certainly did, along with an emphasis on crime.
Closed to the public, it was a law enforcement audience for this event. Officers from various localities, including Petersburg and Surrey County, were in attendance. Approximately half of the audience was staff from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which runs from this area up through Northern Virginia. Sessions called it “one of the finest and most productive in the nation.” There was, of course, a large news media contingent on hand. Plus lots and lots of security. K9 dogs swept the area at least twice.
A crowd outside, about equal in size to the one inside, gathered to protest Sessions’ appearance and his and the administration’s policies and actions. It came about quickly and organically.
Kimberly Anne Tucker, an organizer with Indivisible 757, said she posted about Sessions’ speech as soon as she heard about it, two days beforehand.
“Almost immediately, 100 people responded, and about half came to the demonstration,” she said. “It was amazing, the quick turn around, the numbers who turned out, and their spirit. This is an issue people are really, really, really passionate about.”
The action was set to start at 12:30, but demonstrators were on the scene as early as 11:00 and remained until the bitter end.
Sessions’ speech could have been written for Donald Trump, as it covered his bullet points. But the Attorney General did a better job reading it than the President ever could, sticking to a script Sessions has read before and will read again. It hit on the main themes of “illegal aliens” being threats to national security, specifically terrorism and crime. Oh, and of course, we have to build a wall.
Sessions blamed “decades of lax immigration policy and enforcement,” which would date back to at least George W. Bush’s presidency. Sessions also blasted sanctuary cities, claiming they were “forcing the release of criminals into the community.” He repeated recent warnings about denying Federal funds to such cities and declared they “have to stop impeding law enforcement.” In addition, Sessions said, “It’s a myth we have unlimited agents with unlimited time” without explaining where that myth might have come from and who believes it.
Attempting to counter most research showing illegal immigrants being less likely to commit crimes, Sessions talked about a new Arizona study. He did not cite the source, but said it showed illegals were more than twice as likely to be convicted of crimes than what he interestingly called “normal, or regular, Arizonians.” He did not point out the fact that Arizona is a border state and that conviction rates anywhere can be due to many factors, including bias, that don’t necessarily tie in to the rate of arrests or of crimes committed by a certain population. Apparently for the fear factor, Sessions described one particular recent instance of a southern California illegal alien charged, but not even tried yet, with rape.
He also painted foreign-born illegal aliens as responsible for most terrorist crimes in the U.S.
Sessions made a pointed reference to the MS-13 gang and noted that this district has had to deal with them. It might be remembered that the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ed Gillespie, used the gang as a weapon in his campaign. In one ad, a narrator says: “MS-13 is a menace, yet Ralph Northam voted in favor of sanctuary cities that let dangerous illegal immigrants back on the street, increasing the threat of MS-13. Ralph Northam’s policies are dangerous.”
On the other hand, of the national security front, Tucker said, “What strikes me about Jeff Sessions’ and the whole administration’s position is that it’s Donald Trump’s agenda, and it’s negatively impacting our national security.”
An example she gave is that the administration’s actions and words have upset and scared the undocumented immigrant and Muslim communities. “This is driving things deeper underground, making people fearful of talking to the police.” As a result, Tucker said, we are missing opportunities because people are fearful and much less likely to cooperate and share vital information.
For Tucker, “Jeff Sessions is the face of bigotry to me.” She noted that this administration’s posture has incited certain crimes. “When you fuel hate,” Tucker said, “there are consequences, like Charlottesville and the increase in hate crimes in this country.”
If anyone expected Sessions to offer any family-friendly kind words regarding family values, they were disappointed. Our current policy, he said, “doesn’t favor education and skills, it just favors anybody who has a relative in America, and not necessarily a close relative.”
He then contradicted himself by criticizing the immigration lottery system, which by definition doesn’t “just favor” folks with relatives. Sessions found no time to mention DACA and the dreamers whatsoever.
It was made known Sessions would not take questions. A WAVY-TV reporter, however, did call out to him as he was leaving, asking about Trump’s order to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions just kept walking.
When he reached his cavalcade of security vehicles, demonstrators gave him a hearty send-off, with signs on view and chants loud enough for him to hear.