Sessions pushes back during Senate hearing, says "a lot of overconfidence" on immigration reform

By Challen Stephens
on February 13, 2013 at 3:15 PM, updated February 13, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, today argued that the United States has neglected to enforce immigration law and that amnesty will only delay the problem, leading the nation to hold the same debate in years to come.

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Sessions said proponents of immigration reform appeared overconfident and that he and his colleagues would be “exposing” the flaws in their coming bill.

Sessions, while questioning Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, argued: “For the American people, what their concern is we’re not going to have enforcement, but amnesty only.”

Sessions has already called for the resignation of John Morton, head of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement. During Wednesday’s hearing, Sessions suggested there should be more work done on a border fence, that reform proponents might do better to take small steps and that morale among ICE agents is dangerously low.

Napolitano said the U.S. border have "never been stronger" and that border security was often used to distract from larger issues. Sessions disagreed.

“I truly believe had this administration done a better job of enforcement, been more effective in moving forward with a lawful system of immigration, you would be in a much stronger position with the American people to ask for a more broad solution to the problem,” Sessions told Napolitano.

“I think that’s the fundamental place we are today.”

Sessions also questioned the efforts of the White House to include law enforcement in plans for immigration reform.

At one point during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Sessions asked Chris Crane if President Obama or anyone in the administration had asked for input on immigration reform.

“No, senator,” answered Crane, president of ICE workers union. “In fact what we see is the special interest groups are brought into ICE headquarters” and do not include the ICE officers in legislative planning. “They completely shut us out," said Crane.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who revealed his immigration status in The New York Times, testified for the need to reform the system to allow people already living in the country to actively participate in American democracy. Vargas said referring to him as “illegal” was “dehumanizing.” “No human being is illegal,” he said.

“I’ve been to Alabama, I’ve been to Georgia,” said Vargas at one point, arguing for protections for “low-skilled” workers. “I can tell you there is nothing low skilled about harvesting fruits and vegetables,”
In response, Sessions told Vargas: “The United States is not able to have an open border and allow everybody to come to this country who would come.”

Sessions said if some are granted citizenship now, more will come based on the promise of future amnesty.

“There’s a lot of overconfidence about this bill,” said Sessions, who said the proposed reforms will be studied closely and if elements don’t work: “We’re going to expose it.”

Sessions earlier in the hearing also suggested: “We might be better in dealing with the discrete problems within our immigration system today than trying a massive immigration comprehensive reform”

Sessions pushes back during Senate hearing, says "a lot of overconfidence" on immigration reform |