Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said that the lack of a border wall was to blame for President Donald Trump's policy of separating immigrant families.
In a speech to National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in Louisiana, Sessions defended the administration's "no tolerance" policy, which separates undocumented children from their parents.
"The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me a clear order," Sessions said, according to prepared remarks published on Monday. "And, let me tell you, Donald Trump knows how to give a clear order. He told me to 'reduce crime in America.' Not to preside over ever-increasing crime. Take action and bring down crime.
Sessions falsely argued that a "loophole" in the law allows parents who cross the border with children to "effectively be given immunity from prosecution."
"We do not want to separate children from their parents," Sessions said. "But we do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally instead of waiting their turn or claiming asylum at any port of entry. We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws."
The attorney general went on to say that the Department of Health and Human Services is "spending over a billion taxpayer dollars a year caring for these minors" in order to send "a message to those crossing illegally."
"President Trump has said this cannot continue," he concluded. "We do not want to separate parents from their children. If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won’t face these terrible choices."