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Trump’s Attorney General Nominee Will Fight Illegal Immigration

William Barr made clear his firm commitment on Tuesday to preventing and stopping unlawful entry into the U.S.

On Tuesday at his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, attorney general nominee William Barr made clear his firm commitment to stopping illegal immigration into this country.

“The department will continue to prioritize on enforcing and improving our immigration laws,” Barr said in his opening statement.

“As a nation, we have the most liberal and expansive immigration laws in the world. Legal immigration has historically been a huge benefit to our nation. However, as we open our front door and try to admit people in an orderly way, we cannot allow others to flout our legal system by crashing in through the backdoor.”

President Donald Trump nominated Barr to become his next attorney general on December 7.

The president has also been at the center of an ongoing political battle on border security. He has been fighting to secure $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the southern border.

But the dispute over the wall led to a partial government shutdown on December 22.

Related: Trump’s Attorney General Pick Promises Not to Interfere with Mueller Investigation

“In order to assure our immigration system works properly, we must secure our nation’s borders,” Barr said Tuesday. “And we must assure our laws allow us to process, hold and remove those who unlawfully enter.”

Barr also listed violent crime, building upon criminal justice reform, and protecting voting rights as priories as well.

He previously served in the role for a few years under former President George H. W. Bush. The Democrat-controlled Senate at the time confirmed him by voice vote just 36 days after he was nominated.

Trump has long promised to build a security wall along the southern border as part of his crackdown on illegal immigration.

Yet Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have adamantly opposed the plan. Schumer has only offered to provide $1.3 billion that cannot go toward the border wall.

Related: Trump Walks Out of Gov’t Shutdown Meeting with Dems

Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have continued discussions to overcome the shutdown stalemate. They held numerous meetings since the partial shutdown began, but with little progress.

Trump has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to funding the border wall since the shutdown started.

“You mentioned that we need barriers across the border to deal with drug trafficking,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked later in the hearing. “From what you know do you think a wall would address the concerns you have about drug trafficking?”

Barr replied that he would advocate for a barrier system based on what works best. He said that he would have to get more familiar with the issue and visit the southern border if he gets confirmed. He also agreed drug trafficking needs to be addressed as ports of entry as well. But noted that a physical barrier would help in preventing drug trafficking.

“A wall certainly would,” Barr answered. “But in some places, it might not even be necessary to have what people would imagine as a wall.”

House Democrats have made a few attempts of their own to end the shutdown. They passed two bills intended to fund most of the government while leaving room to debate border security. They later announced a plan to pass four separate appropriations bills — but without border wall funding, they are unlikely to get far.

Trump had warned he won’t sign anymore spending bills until he gets funding for his border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wouldn’t bring up any bills the president wouldn’t sign.

Pelosi has argued that the Republicans should support the plan because it’s based on legislation they approved earlier.

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This piece has been updated to reflect new information.