Jeff Sessions Always Wanted to Deport Undocumented Immigrant Youth. Now He Can

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long fought legal status for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, and on Tuesday, he announced the Trump administration would rescind former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, calling the order “unconstitutional.”

“To have a lawful system of immigration, we cannot admit everyone who wants to come here. It’s just that simple,” Sessions said during a speech Tuesday morning, saying the new policy would make the U.S. safer and more secure. “Ending the previous administration’s disrespect for the legal process is an important first step.”

Obama wanted to get approval of the Dream Act before the end of the lame-duck Congress in 2010, in hopes of providing a path to legal status for certain young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. But the bill faced strong opposition from Republicans and a handful of Democrats, with then-Senator Sessions writing a “Dear Colleague” letter that bashed the bill to his fellow senators on December 2.

“The DREAM Act would force jobless Americans to compete with millions of newly authorized workers, provide legal shelter for criminal aliens, and strain limited resources through generous grants of federal education benefits,” Sessions wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Politico. “Congress would be sending a message that we have effectively given up on enforcement of our immigration laws and instead seek to reward those who illegally enter the country.”

When the Senate voted about two weeks later, the bill failed, falling five votes short. Sessions reportedly said afterward, “This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.”

Sessions has continued to fight against the any legislation or order that would create a legal path for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Obama signed an executive order in June 2012 that suspended the deportation of young undocumented immigrants and allowed them to apply for temporary legal status—a move that Sessions didn’t like. “There is no question that the administration’s unilaterally decreed policy is contrary to codified federal law and places our law enforcement officers in an untenable position,” Sessions wrote in a letter later that year, according to The New York Times.

The Alabama senator’s opposition to DACA continued in recent years. He released a statement in 2014 that criticized Obama’s push for amnesty, saying, “We have people in our own country living in violence, fear and poverty every single day,” according to Breitbart. And during his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions gave a preview of an argument the Trump administration could make to end DACA. “It would certainly be constitutional, I believe, to end that order,” Sessions said, according to Vice. “I would, with the Department of Justice, have no objection to abandon that order, because it's very questionable, in my opinion, constitutionally.”

President Donald Trump announced his displeasure with DACA on Tuesday morning in language that mirrored what Sessions wrote in his 2010 letter. “We are a nation of laws. No longer will we incentivize illegal immigration,” the president wrote on Twitter. Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST!”

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