Officials from the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice on Thursday made the case for President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE's border wall, arguing that the nation would not have to spend money detaining people who illegally crossed the border if a barrier was built.
“If we a had a barrier, a border wall, along the southern border, it is undeniable that more of those offenses will not have to be prosecuted and that we will not have to pay to incarcerate aliens for committing such offenses along the southern border,” one senior administration official said in a call to reporters.
The two agencies made the argument as they released the Alien Incarceration Report, which highlights the number of undocumented immigrants held in federal custody.
This year's report found that the Justice Department at the end of the 2017 fiscal year in September held 58,766 individuals who were “known or suspected aliens.”
The report comes amid the Trump administration’s broader crackdown on illegal immigration, pushed by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE and sanctioned by President Trump, who desires to fulfill his campaign promise of a wall on the southern border.
“While the administration is working diligently to remove dangerous criminal aliens from our streets, this report highlights the fact that more must be done,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE.
“We will continue to pursue President Trump’s immigration priorities, including securing the border, enhancing interior enforcement, and pursuing a merit-based immigration system, but Congress must act immediately to adopt obvious solutions to strengthen DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and DOJ [Department of Justice] efforts to confront dangerous criminal aliens.”
Sessions earlier this year instructed prosecutors to step up their efforts on "criminal immigration enforcement,” adding that immigrants who enter the U.S. unlawfully after having already been removed will be “referred for felony prosecution.”
“We know based on sentencing data that noncitizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses, which contributes to our national drug abuse crisis,” Sessions said Thursday.
“The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable. One victim is too many. It's time for Congress to enact the president's immigration reform agenda so that we start welcoming the best and brightest while turning away drug dealers, gang members and other criminals."
Lawmakers in Congress have been in talks on an immigration package that would provide a legislative fix for an Obama-era program that Trump is winding down. The program allowed certain people who entered the United States illegally as children to remain to work and go to school in the country.
Republicans and the White House are seeking a number of border security measures to tie to any legislation that would protect the immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Democrats have rejected funding a wall on the border, however.