AG Nominee: ‘We Need a Barrier System on the Border’

By Melanie Arter | January 16, 2019 | 3:35pm EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H. W. Bush, was confronted about his views on the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( – During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Attorney General nominee William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “barriers” were necessary to regain control over the U.S. border and that sanctuary cities that entice illegal immigrants are “irresponsible.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) asked Barr how he saw the situation at the border contributing to the prevalence of controlled substances used in the U.S.

Barr said it’s the “major avenue” by which drugs like heroin and fentanyl come into the United States.

“I feel it is a critical part of border security that we need to have barriers on the border. We need a barrier system on the border to get control over the border, and I think obviously, there’s some places that more of the traffic comes over than others, but unless you have a system across the border, you’re not going to be able to deal with it, because … if you build a barrier in one place, you’ll just displace it to another,” he said.

“So we need a barrier system across the border. Part of that is illegal immigration, but a big part of it also is preventing the influx of drugs,” the attorney general nominee said.

“And you stated earlier that really the head of the snake lies outside of the United States. Is there a way that DOJ can be working with additional ideas, methodology with other departments that you might think would help?” Ernst asked.


Barr admitted that because he’s been out of the government, he didn’t know how the drug war was being coordinated, but DOJ “can play a big role in pushing for partners like the State Department, Defense Department, intelligence agencies, and so forth to help deal with this.”

He said it’s “not just a law enforcement problem. It’s a national security problem.”

Ernst talking about a bill she’s planning to re-introduce called Sarah’s Law, which would require the detention of illegal immigrants who are charged with a crime that resulted in the death or serious injury of someone else.

“This bill is named after Sarah Root. She was a resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Sarah was killed by an illegal alien, who was driving drunk, and that alien had a blood alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit, yet he was allowed to post bond and has not been seen since,” the senator said.

“It’s important to me that Congress act to close these loopholes in our immigration system and do better to enforce the laws that are already existing on the books, and I know that Attorney General Sessions he had a real passion for this, and he had a strong record of trying to make sure that we’re correcting wrongs in the system. How do you as attorney general plan on making sure that we are restoring the rule of law in our immigration system?” Ernst asked.

Barr said Sarah’s Law sounded “like a very commonsensical bill” and something he would “be inclined to support.” He said one of the major problems is that the immigrations laws just have to be changed, and to provide sensible and common sense ways of processing immigration and claims of asylum.”

It’s a problem that dates back 27 years, the attorney general nominee said.

“We were facing exactly the same kind of problem maybe on a smaller scale, … where people are abusing the asylum system, coming in. They’re being coached as to what to say, and then once they come in, we don’t have the facilities to keep them, and they’re released into the population, and this was a big abuse as I say 27 years ago, and it’s gotten worse,” he said.

Barr called for a change in immigration law “to stop that kind of abuse and enable us to run a lawful immigration system where we process people into the country who are entitled to come into the country, and we keep out those that are flouting our laws.”

He said President Donald Trump “is right that until we’re able to do that, we’re just not going to be able to get control over illegal immigration, and it creates a lot of unsafe conditions for many people.”

“There are a number of sort of factors that have a hydraulic effect in that they pull people into the United States or induce them to … take the hazards of coming into the United States, coming up hundreds of miles in Mexico and so forth, and things like sanctuary cities where they feel that they’ll be able to come up and hide and be protected is one of those factors that I think is irresponsible, because it attracts the illegal aliens coming in,” Barr said.

“And obviously, I think that the main problem with sanctuary cities is that they’re not giving us information about criminals they have in their custody. This is not chasing after you know families or anything like that. This is going after criminals who the state, local law enforcement have in custody, and not allowing us to take custody of them and get them out of the country. That’s the problem with sanctuary cities,” he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) questioned Barr about the government shutdown and the president’s attempts to reach a deal on the border wall.

“As you know, employees of the Justice Department now are either furloughed or they are working without pay, and I have talked to a number of them at home, and it’s an outrage. Very briefly, what do you have to say to them?” Klobuchar asked.

“I would like to see a deal reached whereby Congress recognizes that it’s imperative to have border security and that part of that border security as a common sense matter needs barriers,” Barr said.

“And you’re aware that in the comprehensive Senate immigration bill that we passed, there was literally billions of dollars for border security back in 2013?” the senator asked. To which Barr replied: “I’m generally aware of that.”

“And that also we had an agreement earlier last year which would allow the Dreamers to stay legally that also had money for border security?” Klobuchar asked.

“The point is we need money right now for border security, including barriers and walls and slats and other things, anything that makes sense in different areas of the border,” Barr said.

“In different areas. That’s a good point. So President George H.W. Bush said back in 1980 that he didn’t want to see six- and eight-year-old kids being made to feel that they’re living outside the law, and you were his attorney general. He also said that immigration is not just a link to America’s past, but it’s a bridge to America’s future. Do you agree with those statements?” Klobuchar asked.

Barr said, “Yes,” adding that he thinks legal immigration “needs reforming, but legal immigration has been good for the United States. It’s been great for the country.”

“And that’s why we were trying to work on that comprehensive reform,” Klobuchar said.


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