LOS ANGELES — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday described critics of President Trump's zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration as elites and members of a "lunatic fringe" who live behind virtual walls but who don't want the same level of security for the nation.
Alluding to the administration's spring policy of separating children from parents who try to bring them across the U.S.-Mexico border, Sessions said such elites would be pleased to see trespassers at their own homes and at exclusive events they attend separated from their children.
"These same people live in gated communities, many of them, and are featured at events where you have to have an ID even come in and hear them speak," Sessions said, speaking to a room full of lawyers in the film and television industry's hometown of Los Angeles. "They like a little security around themselves."
"And if you try to scale the fence, believe me, they’ll be even too happy to have you arrested and separated from your children," he said, drawing cheers and laughter. "And I would like to see that."
The predominantly white, gray-haired participants in the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation's annual luncheon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel ate it up with applause and laughter.
"They want borders in their lives but not yours and not the American people’s lives," Sessions said of the administration's naysayers. "This is why the American people are sick of the lip service and the hypocrisy. They are sick of the politicians who abandon their promises as soon as the mainstream media criticizes them."
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Chelsea Clinton, speaking via Twitter, said Sessions' "joke" about separating trespassers from children at elites' homes and events displayed "indecency and incivility."
One of the politicians singled out by Sessions was California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was criticized for saying that his hardworking immigrant parents are no different than folks who cross the border illegally, save for "a piece of paper." Sessions said documentation is about obeying the law.
"I guess the Attorney General just doesn’t get it — there’s value and dignity in every human life, especially those who work hard," Becerra, who's part of a multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration's child-separation policy, said via email Tuesday. "That was my parents’ example, paper or no paper.”
"Once again, the attorney general is trying to deflect attention from the human crisis at the border that has been created by the Trump administration's policies," U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., added via email. "Jeff Sessions can throw around all the mischaracterizations and misinformation he wants, but he won't distract our focus from the fact that the administration’s policies are tearing innocent children from their parents."