RENO — As protesters rallied outside a Reno casino Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a speech to a conference of school resource officers to publicly defend the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration.
The issue boiled over recently as news reports detailed the separation of children from their families who have been detained for crossing the border illegally.
Sessions, who spoke at the National Association of School Resource Officers conference on school safety at the Peppermill Resort, said refusing to prosecute those people “would be a disservice, I think, to the people of this country.”
“The president has made this clear, that we are going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally,” Sessions told the crowd of law enforcement officers and officials.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that is expected to curtail border separations in favor of detaining families together while the adults await prosecution.
Sessions said the government will do “everything in our power” to avoid separating children from their families.
The Washington Post reported last week that the Customs and Border Protection agency would not pursue prosecutions against people crossing the border illegally with children. Sessions said Monday that the administration has no intent on backing off of that approach.
But the president appears to favor a different approach. Trump took to Twitter over the weekend to say he believes people who come into the country illegally should be deported without due process.
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018
Protesting the policy
In Reno, several dozen people people rallied against Sessions before his speech Monday, holding signs condemning the Trump administration’s practice of family separation. The group held a press conference down the street from the casino before marching a half-mile to set up directly in front of the venue.
Some members of the protest group wore red armbands — a sign that they were prepared to engage in non-violent “civil disobedience,” the group said.
Dozens of protesters blocked a major thoroughfare leading into the hotel-casino’s parking lot, attempting to block Sessions from getting into the venue.
Protesters take South Virginia Street in front of the Peppermill. An attempt to block Jeff Sessions from entering https://t.co/oCCRF6LdaG
— Sam Gross (@samzgross) June 25, 2018
Emily Montan, 59, carried a sign reading “Children are not political,” with a picture of a chess pawn with a thick red line drawn over it.
“What brings me here today is the children being separated from their families,” Montan said. “All of the current administration’s policies and practices are contrary to my personal, moral and ethical beliefs about how we treat people and how we treat children specifically.”
While Sessions was defending the policy in his Reno speech, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., was in Brownsville, Texas, attempting to tour federal immigrant detainment facilities.
But Cortez Masto was unable to gain access to those facilities.
“I was scheduled to visit this children’s detention facility in Brownsville, Texas but was asked to leave immediately. Something is happening here that they don’t want the public to know,” said a tweet from her official Senate account.
I was scheduled to visit this children's detention facility in Brownsville, Texas but was asked to leave immediately. Something is happening here that they don't want the public to know. pic.twitter.com/ogTM5VX1tk
— Senator Cortez Masto (@SenCortezMasto) June 25, 2018