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Sessions on immigration: 'American people spoke clearly' in electing Trump

Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Denisse Rojas, whose parents brought her from Mexico to Fremont, Calif., when she was 10 months old, left Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing to be attorney general Tuesday still seeking answers about whether she is going to be deported under Donald Trump.

"There is really no safety net for us," said Rojas, who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is now in medical school. "Hearing his responses gives me no reassurance."

Given Trump's campaign pledge of mass deportations of people in the country illegally, what Sessions would do about immigration as the nation's attorney general was a major topic on the first day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And he left little doubt of where he stood. "I believe the American people spoke clearly in this election, I believe they agreed with my basic view."

The Department of Homeland Security handles deportations but as attorney general Sessions would have power over immigration courts and criminal prosecutions against immigrants, and could use federal justice grants to pressure local law enforcement agencies to cooperate in federal efforts.

Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, has long opposed bills that would provide a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally as part of broader bipartisan efforts on an immigration policy overhaul. He's called legislation to give a chance at citizenship to people who entered the country illegally as children "a reckless proposal for mass amnesty."

"There is not a spot of evidence in your public career to suggest that as attorney general you would use the authority of that office to resolve the challenges of our broken immigration system in a fair and humane manner," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Sessions. "Tell me I'm wrong."

Sessions disputed the characterization. He said that, as attorney general, he would follow the laws passed by Congress, but also made clear his own stance.

"If you continually go through a cycle of amnesty, you undermine the respect for law and encourage more illegal immigration," Sessions said.

He said his view is that "we create a lawful system of immigration that allows people to apply to this country, and if they're accepted they get in, if they're not accepted they don't get in."

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