"It's well documented that the Obama administration has unilaterally weakened our outright waived the enforcement at the border, in the interior and at the worksite, and at the welfare office, of existing immigration laws," Sessions said on the Senate floor. "At the center of this misconduct is John Morton, the director of ICE.
Sessions was reacting to a bipartisan Senate proposal to allow temporary legal status for some immigrants, create a pathway to citizenship, boost visas for skilled workers, and strengthen the employer verification system.
Sessions noted that under Morton, ICE has said states cannot apprehend illegal immigrants and send them to be processed by ICE. Sessions said that by refusing to cooperate with states — and going further by suing states for trying to implement federal immigration policy — the government is preventing needed federal-local cooperation to enforce the laws.
"The real eyes and ears in law enforcement in America are those state and local people. States have been sued for even attempting to assist," he said. "This administration is denying and undermining the cooperative agreements that are necessary to work together to effectively enforce the laws in our country, and this is what's causing our problem."
Sessions outlined a series of ICE policy directives stating one in 2010 that says low-risk detainees can have visitors, and can be "entertained with movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance and cooking classes, tutoring and computer training."
"In June 2010, a group representing thousands of border agents cast a unanimous vote of no confidence against Morton," Sessions said.
"According to the officers, their vote reflects 'the growing dissatisfaction among ICE employees and union leaders that Director Morton has abandoned the agency's core mission of enforcing United States immigration laws and enforcing public safety,' and has directed efforts toward campaigning and advocacy," Sessions said, reading from the vote result.
Sessions also said ICE systematically reduced the number of reasons for detaining illegal immigrants, and in late 2010, was found to be padding the number of people it deported that year.
Sessions said that overall, Morton appeared to be trying to implement the Dream Act, which would make it easier for illegals to stay and win residency status or citizenship in the U.S., even though Congress has not passed that law.
"So what they did was they just altered the enforcement policies of the federal immigration officers to effect the Dream Act that had been explicitly offered and rejected in Congress on three different occasions," he said. "There can be no comprehensive immigration reform as long as it is the policy of the director of ICE, John Morton, to refuse to enforce existing plain law. We can't have an agreement."