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U.S. Attorney General Sessions visits Triad; discusses gangs, immigration, sanctuary cities

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Winston-Salem on Thursday, speaking to the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association at the Benton Convention Center.

In a speech which began shortly before noon, Sessions said, “This is America. We will not be held hostage in our homes and our communities by gangsters.”

Sessions says according to the FBI’s most recent national gang report, approximately half of all gang investigators said gang membership and activity are on the rise. In addition, about one-third of jurisdictions reported an increase in threats to law enforcement.

“Drug trafficking, extortion, murdering rivals, robbing innocent bystanders,” Sessions detailed.

The attorney general added that the national murder rate “surged” by nearly 11 percent in one year, which is the largest increase since 1968. Homicide rates are up in 27 of the nation’s 35 largest cities, some dramatically, he said.

“I’m afraid this is a trend, the starting of a trend that we do not want to see happen,” he added.

Tying into gang activity, Sessions detailed the national drug overdose epidemic, saying nearly 60,000 Americans died last year due to an overdose, which was up from about 50,000 the previous year. He said that is the highest death toll and fastest increase in the death toll due to drug overdoses in American history.

In North Carolina, Sessions said, annual overdose deaths have tripled since 1999.

“Gangs are more effective than other criminals because they work together,” Sessions added.

The attorney general told the crowd that President Donald Trump issued three executive orders after Sessions took office to unequivocally support state and local law enforcement, to reduce crime and dismantle transnational criminal organizations.

“We must keep after them, we cannot let them recover from these attacks,” Sessions said.

The conversation then turned to immigration, where Sessions said there has been a 50 percent reduction in illegal attempts to enter the United States.

“People don’t have a right to come into our country without lawful admission. People should apply, wait their turn, if accepted they can enter, if not accepted they don’t enter. That’s what a lawful system of immigration means and we certainly don’t need to have sanctuary cities undermining the lawful immigration system of America,” he said.

Of criminals who are here illegally, Sessions said the “law says they should be deported and that’s what we intend to do.”

Staffers say Sessions then met with local and state law enforcement leaders, before departing from the Triad around 3 p.m. Thursday.