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Asked if illegal border crossing should stay a crime, Garland says he's never pondered that question

"I don't know of a proposal to decriminalize but still make it unlawful to enter, I just don't know the answer to that question, I haven't thought about it," Garland said.

Updated: February 23, 2021 - 3:26pm

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Sen. Josh Hawley during a Monday Senate Judiciary Committee hearing asked President Biden's nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland, whether he thought unlawful border crossings into the U.S. "should remain a crime." Garland said that he had not "thought about that question."

Garland said that President Biden has been clear that the U.S. is a nation with borders and is concerned about national security. "I don't know of a proposal to decriminalize but still make it unlawful to enter, I just don't know the answer to that question, I haven't thought about it," he said.

Hawley, a Missouri Republican, then asked Garland whether he would carry on with prosecuting illegal border crossings.

"Well, this is again a question of allocation of resources," Garland said. "The department will prevent unlawful crossing," he said, noting that he does not "know what the current program even is with respect to this." He said, "I assume that the answer would be yes," though he does not "know what the issues...surrounding it are."  

When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Garland during the hearing if he would "look into that practice of using asylum claims by drug cartels to weaken border security," Garland said that he had not been aware of such an issue but that he would look into it.

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