During Austin Visit, A.G. Jeff Sessions Rehashes Immigration Myths

Activists protest Sessions and the DOJ's "racist" agenda

Jeff Sessions in Austin on Friday, spewing more Trump-approved anti-immigrant talking points (Photo by Mary Tuma)

Attorney General and Keebler Elf lookalike contest winner Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III visited Austin on Friday, Oct. 20, to deliver a speech about immigration rife with mistruths and fear-mongering.

Before a packed room at the U.S. Attorney’s Office downtown, Sessions pumped up the Trump administration’s plans for a border wall, called for an influx of 10,000 ICE officers, and re-affirmed his support for the demise of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has threatened the future of more than 124,000 undocumented Texans (“A Nightmare for DREAMers,” Sept. 29). During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Sessions failed to answer whether he had colluded with Texas officials in their pursuit to sue the feds if they did not rescind DACA, a question hot on the minds of the Texas Democratic Party. The answer remains up in the air; Sessions didn’t take a single question from the press or public.

Predictably, Sessions applauded the Texas Legislature for passing one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the country, Senate Bill 4, and slammed so-called “sanctuary cities,“ warning those cities that they could stand to lose federal law enforcement grants. As SB 4 winds through the courts, Sessions called the legal outcome of “national interest.” The A.G. claimed sanctuary policies “undermine the moral authority of law,” place communities in danger, and hinder the work of police officers – a fallacious statement considering all law enforcement chiefs in major Texas cities testified against SB 4, saying it would make their jobs exponentially more difficult – and the public less safe.

Regurgitating the myth that sanctuary policies mean criminals will be released blindly onto the streets, Sessions fanned the flames of fear. “These jurisdictions that knowingly, willfully, and purposefully release criminal aliens back into their communities are risking the lives and safety of American citizens in the pursuit of what really is an extreme open borders policy,” said the A.G. “Think about it: Police may be forced to release pedophiles, drug dealers, arsonists back into the community where they have no right to be in the first place.” (Here, the nation's top law enforcer neglects the reality that all criminals – documented and undocumented – will be punished for their crimes in any jurisdiction and go through the court process, including in “sanctuary cities” like Austin.)

Activists protest AG Sessions outside the U.S. Attorney’s Office downtown. (Photo by Mary Tuma)

Though she was in the audience, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez (herself at the center of the state’s backlash over her U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies) declined to take questions after Sessions spoke, and instead released a statement after the event: “[A.G.] Sessions made a point that SB 4 makes our communities safer. I could not disagree more strongly. SB 4 does not make our communities safer and Attorney General Sessions does not know our community. However, at least I was invited to the table, along with my colleagues to discuss the issue. That’s more than I ever received from the state of Texas.”

Outside the building, more than five dozen activists – with members from groups including Jolt, Grassroots Leadership, and United We Dream – protested Sessions’ visit with posters, chants, and even a white Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. Jolt Executive Director Cristina Tzintzun said the contingent came out to show Sessions that his “bigotry and racist agenda” aren’t tolerated in Austin. She said Sessions pointedly chose Austin for his immigration speech because the city has drawn national attention for its resistance to both state and federal anti-immigration zealotry.

Protesters give AG Sessions what they believe is more fitting attire: a Ku Klux Klan robe. (Photo by Mary Tuma)

"Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration came to Austin to play politics,” Tzintzun told me. “It was no coincidence that they came to Austin to re-affirm their commitment to terrorizing immigrants and communities of color. Sessions and Trump, along with Greg Abbott, have no respect for the democratic process; they picked Austin to harass and intimidate our locally elected leaders that have had the courage to stand up to this administration and Gov. Abbott's racist and anti-immigrant agenda."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Senate Bill 4
5th Circuit Upholds Sanctuary Cities Law
5th Circuit Upholds Sanctuary Cities Law
ACLU in response: "All legal options" on the table

Mary Tuma, March 14, 2018

Faith-Based Opposition to SB 4
Faith-Based Opposition to SB 4
Court briefs filed in support of cities' suit against state

Mary Tuma, Aug. 1, 2017

More Immigration
Pointing Out Detention Centers
Pointing Out Detention Centers "In Plain Sight"
Sky-high art turns eyes to migrant detention and incarceration

Victoria Rossi, July 3, 2020

Rep. Talarico Shocked at Inhumane Border Facility Conditions During Tour
Talarico Shocked at Border Facility Conditions
Austin-area lawmaker part of delegation that visited El Paso, Clint

Mary Tuma, July 2, 2019

More by Mary Tuma
SCOTUS Protects Abortion Rights, Upholds Texas Precedent
SCOTUS Protects Abortion Rights, Upholds Texas Precedent
Roberts concurs with majority to strike down Louisiana measure

June 29, 2020

Pro-Choice Groups Strike Back at Malicious Abortion Foe
Pro-Choice Groups Strike Back at Malicious Abortion Foe
Leader of small-town ban effort slapped with defamation suit

June 11, 2020


Immigration, Senate Bill 4, Jeff Sessions

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle