AUSTIN - Attorney General Jeff Sessions stopped in Austin on Friday to discuss President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
The attorney general spoke at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas near Congress Avenue and Ninth Street late Friday morning.
"It will work, it will fix so many of the problems that we face," said Sessions. "We are at a part that we can fix this system."
Watch the full speech here:
But Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, and protesters outside of the building downtown, didn't agree.
Sessions said now under President Trump, they are getting "serious" about crime and illegal immigration.
He said President Trump is still determined to build a border wall.
"This will make it harder for illegal aliens to enter the country, but more importantly the wall will send a message to the world that we enforce our laws," said Sessions.
He said they will require employers to use an electronic system to make sure all their workers are legally documented.
"It would be illegal to discriminate against American workers in favor of foreign workers," said Sessions.
According to Sessions, they want to move towards merit based immigration, saying they only want the best and brightest people to enter the country, not criminals.
"We can't accept everybody that would like to come to America, we should accept those who are prepared to live lawfully, and who can flourish and prosper in America," said Sessions.
Sessions also thanked state lawmakers for passing SB 4 -- which requires law enforcement to honor all ICE detainers -- saying it makes communities safer.
Travis County Sheriff Hernandez disagrees.
"Where we were building the trust and the confidence in the immigrant communities, I can see that in the town hall meetings being broke down, it's making it harder for them to come to us, and I've been saying all along we want our immigrant communities to run to us, and not away from us," said Hernandez. "He doesn't' know our community, and that our community is not safer."
Watch parts of her press conference here:
Sheriff Sally Hernandez said she was a bit surprised to be invited to a meeting with Sessions and other law enforcement from Central Texas.
"Though it didn't go necessarily how I would like it, I would call it a start," said Hernandez.
She said she's thankful to even be able to have that conversation.
"If you get an opportunity, and you're invited to talk and have a conversation, and express your views, and know that somebody's listening to you, I think it helps in moving things forward," said Hernandez.
But, for communities like Austin and Travis County, known as a so called "sanctuary city," Sessions said they will not receive federal money or grants.
"These policies hinder the world of federal law enforcement, they're contrary to the rule of law, they have serious consequences for the safety of law-abiding Americans and law-abiding Texans," said Sessions.
He hopes that will cause city leaders to rethink their practices.
"I would urge every so-called sanctuary jurisdiction, reconsider your policies," said Sessions. "These sanctuary polices risk the safety for good law enforcement officers, and the safety of the neighborhoods that need the protection the most."
Sessions said President Trump has proposed hiring more than 10,000 new ICE officers, 1,000 new ICE attorneys, 300 new prosecutors, and nearly 400 new immigration judges to deal with backlog.
Protesters gathered outside the building at Ninth and Congress where Sessions was speaking. They want Austin to be a sanctuary for immigrants.
"Your life as an immigrant is just a piece in a game, and that it's always political, but in reality we're building this country, our country," said Daniel Ramirez, who is a DACA recipient.
"We know he chose Austin as an intimidation tactic, because we're working to be a sanctuary city and protect immigrants here, he's trying to send a clear message that the Trump regime will not have it, and we're sending a clear message back that we are not afraid and we will continue to protect immigrants in Austin," said protester Sofia Casini. "The immigrant community is terrified right now, and we need them to know that they have allies and they have people here who have their back."
"All people are created equal so all people should be respected equally," said Joanne Richards. "The American voice is an important voice and we need to speak up when we think something wrong is being done."
Sessions defended Trump's decision to end the DACA program.
"The president wants to stop the incentive for vulnerable children to come here illegally, there's nothing wrong with that," said Sessions.
During his time in Austin, we're told Sessions also met with leadership of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas, to understand the "challenges they face," as well as had dinner with Governor Greg Abbott Thursday evening.
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