After conquering ‘Masters of the Universe,’ Sessions weighs future of Homeland Security
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) bounced between interviews Wednesday afternoon, fresh off of his star turn on the big stage the night before when the Republican National Convention’s theme was “Make America Safe Again.”
No subject could have been more fitting for Alabama’s junior senator, who has spent much of the last decade sounding the alarm that “open borders” could leave the United States vulnerable to attack — from both terrorists and illegal immigrants.
Many would argue he has been proven right.
In one particularly heart-wrenching example, 32-year-old Kate Steinle was murdered on a pier in San Francisco by an illegal alien who had been convicted of seven felonies but was continuously released back onto the streets.
Sessions invited her father to testify before a U.S. Senate committee last year while the body was considering a bill to crack down on “sanctuary cities.”
“We were walking arm-in-arm on Pier 14 in San Francisco enjoying a wonderful day together,” Mr. Steinle testified. “Suddenly a shot rang out, Kate fell, and looked at me and said ‘Help me, Dad.’ Those are the last words I will ever hear from my daughter.”
It is the Steinles and countless other families around the country who have been negatively impacted by U.S. immigration and border policies for whom Sessions sees himself fighting.
Who he’s fighting against is often a little more abstract. Although they sometimes have names — Obama and Clinton or Zuckerberg and Gates — they are usually referred to more broadly as simply the “Masters of the Universe.”
As a constant reminder of this, above Sessions’ desk in his Capitol Hill office hangs a drawing of He-Man and Battle Cat from the 1980s comic book series and cartoon of the same name.
“(O)ur greatest ‘Masters of the Universe,’ as I like to refer to them, have joined… (together) to share their wisdom from on high and to tell us in Congress how to do our business,” Sessions declared on the Senate floor in 2014 in the midst of a tense fight over so called comprehensive immigration reform. “Sheldon Adelson… Warren Buffett… and Bill Gates… all super billionaires, aren’t happy, apparently. They don’t have much respect for Congress, and by indirection the people who elect people to Congress… Those three billionaires have three votes. The individual who works stocking the shelves at the grocery store, the barber, the doctor, the lawyer, the cleaners operator, and the person who picks up our garbage are every bit as valuable as they are. So I know who I represent. I represent citizens of the United States of America.”
But while Sessions’ clashes with immigration advocates have become high profile affairs in recent years–and foreshadowed the Trump phenomenon–that has not always been the case. In 2007, with a Republican president pushing immigration reform along with members of his own party in both houses, Sessions made a sometimes lonely stand.
And to this day, just below the “Masters of the Universe” drawing hangs an excerpt from the remarks Sessions delivered on the Senate floor just before the vote that sent the bill going down in flames.
“No one small group of people have a right to meet in secret with special-interest groups and write an immigration bill and ram it down the throat of this Senate,” he said. “I oppose it. It is not right.”
But in spite of the legislative victories, President Obama has used–and Sessions would argue abused–his executive power to grant de facto amnesty to wide swaths of illegal immigrants. This has led many Trump supporters to fantasize about what it might look like for Sessions to transition out of his role as the Senate’s conservative elder statesman and into a Trump Cabinet post atop the Department of Homeland Security.
If the billionaire businessman makes it to the Oval Office, it very well could go from fantasy to reality, although the always humble Sessions dismisses such ideas offhand.
That does not mean, however, that he has not thought at great length about what needs to change inside the third largest Cabinet department (trailing only the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs).
“A lot of things need to be done immediately,” Sessions told Yellowhammer at the Republican National Convention. “Sadly, the Department is one of the largest in the federal government, but they have the lowest morale of all the major agencies, and have for several years.”
The head of the border patrol agents union has said that current DHS leadership is “punishing law enforcement officers who are just trying to uphold U.S. law,” and is “willing to take away their retirement, their job, their ability to support their families in favor of someone who is here illegally and violating our laws…either taking a disciplinary action [or] threat[ening] disciplinary action.”
The vice president of the National Border Patrol Council testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that, “(Border Patrol) agents who repeatedly report groups (of illegal aliens) larger than 20 face retribution. Management will either take them out of the field and assign them to processing detainees at the station or assign them to a fixed position in low volume areas as punishment. Needless to say agents got the message and now stay below this 20 person threshold no matter the actual size of the group.”
As a result, in addition to the victims mentioned above, Sessions has also become a champion of immigration and customs agents.
“The agents in that organization sued their supervisors and the Secretary of Homeland Security basically saying, ‘You’re ordering us to violate our oath and violate the law,'” Sessions explained. “I’ve never heard of that before — suing your boss for not letting you do your job! That’s the level of disfunction.
“So the first thing that needs to happen is that those officers need to be rallied, respected and empowered,” he continued. “Let’s put them to work. They’re ready. Let’s build a wall and the barriers we need, empower the officers, back them up with tough prosecutors, and deport the people who are caught here illegally.”
Sessions believes that such an approach would completely revolutionize Homeland Security and drastically change the way the U.S. is viewed by would-be illegal entrants.
“We would immediately send a message to the world that the border is no longer open,” he concluded. “I guarantee you we would see a major reduction in attempts to enter the country illegally, because right now many people are just coming because they believe–often rightly–that they’ll get away with it.”
Six months from today a new president will be sworn into office, and he or she will presumably bring an entirely new Cabinet with them. Whether Sessions ends up being offered such a post remains to be seen. But you can bet the “Masters of the Universe” will be holding their breath as the process unfolds.
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