Jeff Sessions

26th Annual Law Enforcement Legislative Day Speech

delivered 7 March 2018, Sacramento, CA


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Wow. Thank you. Thank you, Greg and -- for that kind introduction, for your leadership. And thank you to CPOA [California Peace Officers Association] for what you do -- what, now 25,000 members, the top leadership in this state. You represent a force of -- of -- for good, for law, for safety in our country. And that's what it's all about for us.

I want to thank other law enforcement leaders who are here today: Sheriff Bill Brown of the California State Sheriffs’ Association; Chief Ed Medrano of the California [Police Chiefs] Association; Mark Brewster of the California Narcoti[c] Officers Association; District Attorney Todd Riebe of the California District Attorneys Association; and Commissioner Warren Stanley of the California Highway Patrol.

That's a good group and I'm honored to be with you and this Association.

McGregor Scott is a great leader in the Department of Justice. I learned about him before I took office -- and we were talking about talent around the country and people who could do things to make America better. You have, clearly, by reputation -- and I think he'll prove once again to be one of the very finest United States Attorneys in our country.

Also, I would note that the California is a big state, an important state. And it's important that we have safety and order here. And we need talented United States Attorneys, and that will be our goal.

And one more think I would say to you: a directive I've given to every one of our Washington prosecutors and staff, and to our United States Attorneys around the country -- that we are partners with you, that we're going to establish the kind of law enforcement partnership that will be effective in making our communities safer.

I know, first hand, the importance of the work that you do. I know its dangers, its challenges, its frustrations, and satisfactions. I've had firsthand experience in these matters working with your colleagues in Alabama. I've sat by them in trials. I've interviewed them late at night. We've talked about the challenges and the realities of the world that you and your officers work in.

And I have inexpressible pride in the federal women and men of law enforcement. They are talented and -- and provide such great leadership and work throughout our country. I am fully aware that 85 percent of all our state -- all our law enforcement officers are state and federal.

And I'm well aware that the increased training, professionalism, leadership, and more effective law enforcement policies of our departments nationwide -- your departments -- over several decades, has been a critical factor in reversing the dramatic rise in crime that we saw in the 60s and 70s -- and I started out as a young prosecutor in the late 70s.

Then, over a 22 year period, we saw homicide rates cut by half. We saw drug use fall, basically by half, and violent crime fall dramatically throughout this country. It was an achievement few people ever expected could happen in those days when we were there. And it was increasing every year.

Much of the transformative leadership for this -- this change arose from your former Governor, Ronald -- President Ronald Reagan -- and aided by his fabulous counselor and later Attorney General of the United States, Ed Meese. Thank you for both of them. They made America a better and safer place, no doubt. Ed Meese continues to be active in Washington. He is an intellectual force when it comes to crime, and I value his judgment and friendship highly.

So, in recent years -- I don't know -- maybe we got complacent, took our eye off the ball, but recent trends in crime are worrisome. In 2014 and '15 violent crime stopped falling and jumped seven percent nationwide. Homicide surged 20 percent in those two years, the largest increase since 1968. Drug availability rose. Drug purity rose.  Drug prices fell. These are not good trends. And along with the new killer drug, fentanyl, overdose deaths reached levels we have never seen before -- 66,000 last year. The largest cause of death for Americans aged 50 and below is overdose drug deaths.

This is [why] his first day in office, President Trump sent me three executive orders -- he knows how to send orders and we intend to follow them: (1) back the men and women in blue. Let's make sure that the people -- law officers throughout this country know we support you, we value what you do, and we're behind you; [2] reduce crime in America. That's a pretty simple directive. Reduce crime in America, not preside over every increasing -- increases; and [3] to dismantle transnational criminal gangs and organizations. So we embrace those goals at the Department of Justice, and we hope that you do too. And we know you do.

So let me be explicit: Our express goal is to reduce the violent crime rate -- reduce it; to reduce the homicide rate; to reduce the amount of opioids being prescribed in this country -- we still prescribe too many, I think we all agree; and to reduce overdose deaths. These are just some of the goals that we have.

So, together, let's get them. Let's solve and achieve these goals. It's not a job that we do so much as a service. It's a high calling, I think. And a lawful immigration system that serves the national interest helps us to achieve these goals and more benefits for America. And that’s what I have to about today.

We are a strong, prosperous, and orderly nation. California is a great state, so important to America. And such a nation, such a country as ours must have a lawful system of immigration. I'm not aware of any advanced nation who disagrees with that concept.

And let no one contend that we reject immigration and want to “wall off America” from all immigrants. President Trump and the American people know what’s happening. We admit 1.1 million immigrants lawfully to permanent resident status in the United States, with a clear path to citizenship, with a green status every year. No nation comes close to that. It's the highest numbers in the world. Indeed, at this unprecedented rate we will soon have the largest percentage of non-native born in our nation’s history, and the percentage is continuing to rise every year thereafter.

Thus, the good and decent people of this country are right to insist that this country and its officials should end the illegality, create a rational immigration flow, protect the nation from criminal aliens, and preserve the national interest.

It cannot be that someone who illegally crosses the border and two days later arrives in Sacramento, Dubuque, Louisville, Central Islip, New York is home free -- never to be removed. How can that be? It cannot be the policy of a great nation to up and reward those who unlawfully enter its country with legal status, Social Security, welfare, food stamps, work permits, and so forth. How can this be a sound policy? Meanwhile those who engage in the process lawfully and patiently and wait their turn are discriminated against it seems at every turn.

Most Americans get this. They are working hard to make ends meet, follow the rules, they teach their children to follow the rules, they believe in the rule of law, and they want to keep their loved ones safe. They, our citizens, want our government to think about them for a change, to think about their interests for a change. They have dreams too. Frankly, the commonsense concept -- this concept was a big part of President Trump’s election. And elections have consequences. I think the American people "spoke" about this subject.

Immigration law is the province of the federal government. It's in the Constitution. This Administration and this Justice Department are determined to make it work effectively for all our people.

I understand that we have a wide variety of political opinions out there on immigration. But the law is in the books and its purposes are clear and just. There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is “the supreme law of the land.” I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, or to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled.

A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law -- it's a rejection of law -- and it creates an "open borders system." It's the only way it can be described. And open borders is a radical, irrational idea that cannot be accepted. The American people will not accept it. And the United States of America is not some idea. It's a secular nation-state with a Constitution, with laws, with borders, all of which are designed to protect our nation’s interests. And we should be able to agree certainly on this.

So to carry out the intent of our laws, we need law officers. That's what you and your departments do every day. We need our Immigration and Customs Officers, our ICE officers, our Border Patrol officers. They are your brothers and sisters. President Trump, the Congress, and the American people want to accomplish these goals our laws have set out for them. That’s why we pay them. That's why they get a salary.

But, California, we have a problem.

A series of actions and events has occurred here that directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers. For example, the mayor of Oakland has actively -- has been actively seeking to help illegal aliens avoid apprehension by ICE.

-- Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) February 25, 2018

Her actions support those who flout the law and boldly validates illegality. There’s no other way to interpret those remarks.

To make matters wor[se], the elected Lieutenant Governor [Gavin Newsom] of -- of this state praised her for doing so.1 Bragging about and encouraging the obstruction of our law enforcement and -- and the law is an...I'm afraid this is an embarrassment to the proud state of California.

Tom Homan, the [Acting] Director of ICE, has said recently (quote):

... being a law enforcement officer is already dangerous enough, but to give the criminals a heads up that we're coming in the next 24 hours increases that risk. I watched [[the mayor’s]] statement when she said her priority is the safety of [her] community, but what she did ha[s] the exact opposite effect.

(Close quote.)

And I that's a fair criticism and statement. According to Acting Director Homan, ICE failed to make 800 arrests that would have been made if the mayor had not made her statement. Those are 800 wanted criminals that are now at large in that community -- 800 wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue by other means, with more difficulty in dangerous situations, all because of one irresponsible action.

So here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you.

How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda.

But in California, we have bigger problems also than just one mayor. For example, in January, Ventura County declined a request from ICE to hold an alien Ventura had arrested and put in their custody for continuous sexual abuse of a child. Instead of being removed from the country, he was released back into the community and now federal law enforcement officers will try to find him and arrest him, wherever he may be.

In recent years, the California legislature has enacted a number of laws
2 designed to intentionally obstruct the work of our sworn immigration officers -- to intentionally use every power the legislature has to undermine the duly-established immigration law of America.

California law now won’t let employers voluntarily allow ICE agents on their property.3 Won't even let them come on their property when the company voluntarily allows them to. And...California requires employers to give notice to the employees before ICE comes to inspect their workplace.4

When this law was before the [California] General Assembly, a Judiciary Committee report explicitly stated that its goal was to frustrate (quote) “an expected increase in federal immigration enforcement actions,” which, of course, it was. It was designed to frustrate the work that we're required to do under the laws of this country.

ICE agents are federal law enforcement officers carrying out federal law. California cannot forbid them or obstruct them in doing their jobs. Just imagine if -- if a state passed a law forbidding employers [from] cooperating with OSHA in ensuring workplace safety; or the Environmental Protection Agency for looking after polluters. Would you pass a law to do that?

And just think about the situation it puts California employers in. They want to help law enforcement. They want to do their civic duty. We ought to be encouraging them and thankful to them. But your state attorney general has repeatedly promised to prosecute these business owners. Let me quote what he said more than once: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse if you violate it” -- quote -- “you are subjecting yourselves to up to 10,000 dollars [in fines] for violations.”

Now this is a great state. I don't want to be in this position of -- of having to challenge these laws. It wasn't something I chose to do. But I can't sit by idly while the lawful authority of federal officers are [sic] being blocked by a -- legislative acts and politicians.   

California has also claimed the authority to inspect facilities where ICE holds people in custody. Already this year, California has specifically, and in a discriminatory manner, targeted six facilities and demanded documents and other materials from the Department of Homeland Security.

California won’t let law enforcement officers like you and your people to transfer prisoners to ICE custody -- even to communicate with ICE that you’re about to release them from your custody, people that ICE is looking for. Remember that California found these people dangerous enough to detain them in the first place, but then insists on releasing them back into the community instead of allowing federal officers to remove them safely.

And rather than allow ICE officers to do their jobs with the transfers at the jailhouse, they force our officers to conduct more dangerous arrests elsewhere -- where violent criminals may reside and where children can be caught in a crossfire. That’s just not unconstitutional -- it’s a plain violation of federal statute and a violation of common sense, a violation of good partnership that we need to build between state and federal officers.

Importantly, the laws are harmful to Californians, and they’re especially harmful to law our enforcement, your law enforcement. So that’s why the Department [of Justice] filed a lawsuit4 against the state of California to invalidate these unjust laws and to immediately freeze their effect. Federal agents must be able to -- to do the job that Congress directed them to do.

Contrary to what you might hear from open borders radicals, we are not asking California, Oakland, or anyone else to actually effectively enforce immigration laws. Although we would welcome the positive assistance the majority of jurisdictions in America provide to our federal officers -- we would certainly like that -- but ICE agents do incredible work every day. They're not backing down. They're not going to will not be deterred. And we're not going to stop enforcing the law in -- in Alabama or California either, for that matter.

We are simply asking the state and other sanctuary jurisdictions to stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement. Stop treating immigration agents differently from everybody else for the purpose of eviscerating border and immigration laws and advancing an open borders philosophy shared by only a few, the most radical extremists. Stop protecting lawbreakers and giving all officers more dangerous work to do so that politicians can score political points on the backs of officer safety.

I can't accept that. You are professionals. You understand the risks that we're talking about. You know the reality of what happens on the street and how your officers operate -- and how our federal officers operate.

Think about the scene of a[n] officer knocking on a door to execute a warrant. They don’t know what’s on the other side of that door. It’s not fair to them, to be putting them in a situation like that by releasing criminal aliens into the community who shouldn’t even be in the country. I sign condolence letters for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. I signed two yesterday. I fundamentally believe at my core that we should not further endanger the lives of those who risk everything for us because some officials want to violate the law in promoting an agenda that the American people reject.

So California -- absolutely, it appears to me -- is using every power it has, powers it doesn't have, to frustrate federal law enforcement. So you can be sure I’m going to use every power I have to stop that.

We are going to fight these irrational, unfair, unconstitutional policies that have been -- been imposed on you and your officers, on our federal officers. We are fighting to make your job safe. We're fighting to help you reduce crime in America, not increase it by keeping criminals here that ought to be deported. We are fighting for a lawful system of immigration, one that we can be proud of, one that's consistently applied, fairly applied, and we intend to win this fight.

So, I'd like to close by reiterating my deep appreciation and profound thanks to all the women and men of law enforcement -- federal, state, local, tribal. The work that you do -- that you have dedicated your lives to -- is essential. It's essential for any advanced nation. I believe it. The Department of Justice believes it. President Trump believes it. And you can be sure about this: We have your back; you have our thanks.

Thank you all, and God bless.

1 To wit: “We can and must protect immigrant families from Donald Trump’s mass deportations. I want to thank Mayor Schaaf for her courage and hope more local leaders will follow her lead.” [Source:]

2 See, for instance, California Values Act (SB 54) and the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450). 

3 See AB 450, SECTION 1, Section 7285.1 (a), which applies to public and private employers, states: "Except as otherwise required by federal law, an employer, or a person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not provide voluntary consent to an immigration enforcement agent to enter any nonpublic areas of a place of labor. This section does not apply if the immigration enforcement agent provides a judicial warrant."

4 See AB 450, SEC. 4. Section 90.2 (a) (1) which reads in part: "Except as otherwise required by federal law, an employer shall provide a notice to each current employee, by posting in the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information to the employee, of any inspections of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records conducted by an immigration agency within 72 hours of receiving notice of the inspection. Written notice shall also be given within 72 hours to the employee’s authorized representative, if any."

4 Read/download the entire complaint here [Source:]. See also this useful summary and analysis.

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