Border

U.S. attorney general, head of Homeland Security to visit El Paso

Session, Kelly to tour border Thursday

EL PASO - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, the head of DHS, will be in El Paso on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd told ABC-7.

The Republican congressman, who was in the Lower Valley for several groundbreaking events Wednesday, said he will not be in attendance when Sessions and Secretary Kelly tour the border.

Still, Hurd said it's important for Washington lawmakers to check out the border themselves.

"The message is this, you can't have a one size fits all solution to the border," Hurd said. "We can secure the border and continue to facilitate the movement of goods and services at the same time. These are not two cities separated by an international boundary. It's one community separated by a border."

The representative of Texas' 23rd Congressional District is in charge of over 820 miles of the U.S./Mexico border.

"I try to bring as many members of Congress to the border to see it. A lot of people who talk about the border have never been to the border," Hurd said. "Usually, when you come down here and see it, it changes your perspective on what really needs to happen."

Democratic congressman Beto O'Rourke released this statement to ABC-7 about Sessions' and Kelly's visit:

"I wrote a letter to Sec. Kelly after the unprecedented arrest in the County Courthouse of an undocumented woman seeking a protective court order. I have also asked him about this in person where he committed to responding. However he has yet to answer the letter and the serious questions posed in it about how this kind of arrest happened, why the affidavit contained information that was not true, and how he and DHS are going to prevent this from happening again in the future.

I want Sec. Kelly and Attorney General Sessions to understand that our community's security -- the public safety of El Paso -- depends on the full participation of everyone in the community in keeping us safe. That has been undermined with actions like these, with the lack of accountability, with calls for "military style" immigration roundups, and with the atmosphere of intimidation and fear promoted by this administration."  

The visit for Sessions comes two days after he met with federal law enforcement officials on ways to dismantle ultraviolent transnational gangs. The Trump administration vowed Tuesday to crack down on MS-13, a notoriously brutal Central American street gang blamed for a recent series of killings in suburban New York, and accused Obama-era border policies of allowing its ranks to flourish.

"These organizations enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate," Sessions said before the meeting.

His warnings were echoed in a separate address by Kelly and came just hours after President Donald Trump tweeted that "The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!"

Meanwhile, another high-ranking judge today asked the Trump administration to avoid immigration arrests at state courthouses.
 
New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner noted in a letter dated Wednesday to Kelly that federal immigration officials recently arrested two people in New Jersey courthouses. The arrests could cause witnesses to stay silent or domestic abuse victims to avoid court, Rabner said.
 
Rabner wants Kelly to add courthouses to a list of sensitive locations -- like houses of worship and schools -- recognized by immigration officials.
 
The letter comes after California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued a similar request last month. Cantil-Sakauye wrote in her letter that "stalking undocumented immigrants" hinders their access to justice.
 
Kelly and Sessions have defended the practice, saying visitors to courthouses are typically screened for weapons. They also took issue with use of the word "stalking." Rabner's letter didn't include similar language.
 
In February, federal agents took into custody an undocumented transgender woman seeking a protective order in a domestic violence case at the El Paso County Courthouse. Irvin Gonzalez, an alleged victim of domestic violence, had an extensive criminal history and had been deported from the U.S. six times. Gonzalez's criminal history includes convictions for illegal re-entry, larceny/from mail, false imprisonment (three times), assault, probation violation, and domestic violence.


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