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Sessions discusses immigration, industry on visit

Sen. Jeff Sessions toured across North Alabama on Wednesday and made several local stops, including the Wrangler plant in Hackleburg, Tiffin Motor Homes in Red Bay and the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville, where he spoke to residents following a dinner and question and answer session.

Sessions said at his Hackleburg stop that he was impressed with the way the area has seemed to bounce back following the tornado outbreak in April 2011, especially the new Wrangler distribution plant that is near completion.

“It is so great to see the plant come back,” Session said.

“I really felt, and I know a lot of us felt, that it was important that this plant come back here, psychologically as well as economically.”

Sessions said he was confident that the return of the VF Jeanswear Wrangler Distribution Plant to Hackleburg would help the still-sagging local economy, even though he was optimistic about the economic outlook for North Alabama in the future.

“Unemployment is down in this area,” Sessions said. “The nation just hasn’t come back from this recession, but Northwest Alabama seems to be holding their own.

“This area has an educated workforce, a good education system, hard working people who go to church and do the right things, and all of that is attractive to businesses.

“If companies start to feel more optimistic, then they will start to expand.”

Later that evening at the A.W. Todd Centre, most of Sessions’ comments related to national matters ranging from the nation’s debt to the possible confirmation of Sen. Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s defense secretary to the ongoing immigration debate.

A group of about three-dozen Latinos stood outside the Todd Centre prior to Sessions’ arrival holding candles, singing hymns and demonstrating posters they made urging the longtime senator to change his stance on immigration.

Sessions is opposed to granting amnesty to illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.

“We want him to understand how our families are being affected and want him to join Sen. (John) McCain and (Marco) Rubio in their views on immigration,” said Juanita Mendoza, of Decatur.

The protestors came to Russellville from Decatur, Gadsden, Clanton, Birmingham, Montgomery, Alexander City and other parts of the state representing the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ).

“Our families are citizens, residents, and aspiring citizens of Alabama and we want to contribute to our community,” Mendoza said.

“We ask that our members of Congress join the push for immigration reform or step aside and accept that immigration reform will become a reality.”

During the question and answer period, Sessions stood firm in his beliefs that a tough national plan needs to be developed.

“Let me ask you, don’t you think we should have an immigration system that follows the law?” Sessions asked while answering a question from Mayra Rangel, who travelled to Russellville from Oneonta.

“I believe the U.S. should have a lawful system of immigration and it should serve the national interest, not special interest, not big business interest, not agricultural interest.”

Rangel interjected that families of millions of Hispanics are hanging in the balance.

“But what about the interest of families?” she said. “Latinos are suffering, sir. We need something to fix immigration. We are asking you to help our families stay together so we can stay a part of our community and our country. America is our country now too.”

A woman in the audience shouted to Rangel that she put her own family in jeopardy by coming to the United States illegally.

Sessions then jumped in and addressed Rangel again.

“I know this is important to a lot of people. It’s important to me,” Sessions said.

“But, I do not think that those who come into the country illegally should get every benefit the nation has to offer just because they are here. I do not feel a moral or legal obligation to allow those who entered illegally to benefit from breaking the law.”