Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions did not take kindly to Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s criticism of Alabama’s rigid enforcement of immigration laws during a speech promoting the DREAM Act, attacking Durbin from the Senate floor and contributing to a letter demanding that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano closes safe havens for illegal immigrants.
During his speech Wednesday evening, Sessions told Durbin to stop casting aspersions on other states until his state dispenses with breaking the law via sanctuary city policies — the most egregious of which, he said, is Cook County Ill.
“If we are going to talk about who is, and who is not, above the law, I suggest that my good friend — and we have worked together on a number of things, some of them criminal justice issues — the senator from Illinois, needs to clean up his own backyard rather than casting unfounded criticisms on states that are taking up a valuable effort to see that our immigration laws actually are enforced, to help end the lawlessness that has caused so much disruption in our country and upset the American people,” Sessions said.
“Cook County has decided that it gets to decide who gets deported from the country and when, and acting in this way directly undermines federal law enforcement,” Sessions said, noting his horror at the fact that Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that she has not looked into the Cook County immigration policies.
“So I would suggest,” the Alabama senator continued, “that the Attorney General [Eric Holder] take a little timeout from his lawsuit against Arizona or Alabama or other states, and focus a little bit of his attention on a major jurisdiction such as Cook County that is willfully and deliberately acting to undermine federal law enforcement.”
In the speech Sessions was responding to, Durbin made the argument that the Alabama and Arizona immigration enforcement laws were, in essence, un-American, and mentioned some of the young immigrants in Alabama who have written to him and now live in fear.
“When I see the argument being made in Arizona and Alabama, the anti-immigrant argument being made, I am thinking to myself they are ignoring the reality. The reality is the diversity of our nation is its strength, the fact that we come from so many different places, drawn and driven to this great country for the opportunity it offers,” he said, explaining that the laws criminalize illegal immigration.
Durbin added that making immigrants criminals will not help the illegal immigration problem and that there is not enough law enforcement capability to even do so.
“Alabama should know — every state should know — that no state is above the law” Durbin went on to say. “No state is above the findings of our Supreme Court. The American people have a right to be frustrated. Congress has repeatedly failed to fix our broken immigration system. The casualties — many are young ‘DREAMers’ whom I talked about today, and many have been around many years and still live in the shadows and live in fear every single day.”
According to Sessions, however, it is not Alabama or Arizona that has a problem with the law — it is places like Cook County that are not enforcing immigration laws.
“Even more egregious is that the administration has refused to take any action against states and localities that affirmatively, proactively and intentionally impede the immigration enforcement in the United States,” Sessions said. “These jurisdictions include San Francisco County, Santa Clara County, Washington, D.C., and perhaps the most egregious example: Cook County, Ill., which recently … passed an ordinance directing local Illinois law enforcement officials to ignore U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.”
Sessions and Republican senators Charles Grassley of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma sent a letter to Napolitano on Wednesday requesting that the administration take action against Cook County and other sanctuary localities “that purposefully and deliberately undermine the laws of the United States and offer sanctuary to illegal aliens who have broken our laws by entering the country illegally.”