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Tuesday, June 12, 2018 11:50 am

Attorney General Sessions to speak Thursday in Fort Wayne

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will speak Thursday in Fort Wayne about the immigration priorities of the Trump administration, according to the Department of Justice.

The agency announced Tuesday that Sessions will speak at 1:15 p.m. Thursday at the Suite Level Lounge at Parkview Field. A department spokesman told The Journal Gazette that community leaders and attorneys groups have been invited to hear Sessions' remarks. Media coverage will be allowed. 

Local TV stations reported Monday night that Sessions will speak at Parkview Field, without naming their sources for the information about the visit. The Journal Gazette earlier received a tip about Sessions' planned appearance, but the Justice Department said Monday afternoon that an Indiana visit was not on Sessions' "public schedule" at that point. 

Sessions, a former Republican U.S. senator from Alabama, has long been described as an immigration hard-liner. He angered Democratic lawmakers and former immigration judges on Monday when he issued a ruling that immigration judges cannot consider domestic abuse and gang violence as grounds for granting asylum.

Sessions also has sought to punish municipal officials in so-called sanctuary cities who fail to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Immigration has not been a hot issue in recent years in Fort Wayne, home to among the nation's largest communities of Burmese refugees. There have been at least two public demonstrations organized at the Allen County Courthouse Green against the immigration policies of the Trump administration since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump appeared to be softening his immigration stance in an effort to improve a North American bid to host soccer's World Cup in 2026. The Times reported that Trump has sent three letters to FIFA, soccer's governing body, that "contained increasingly specific guarantees that foreign teams, officials and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the U.S. for World Cup matches in 2026 if their countries qualify for the tournament. In effect, the letters assured officials voting on the event that Mr. Trump’s hard-line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup."

The site of 2026 World Cup will be selected Wednesday by soccer officials.

Sessions was an early and avid supporter of Trump's candidacy. But they have had a rocky relationship since Sessions recused himself in March 2017 from investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election won by Trump. On May 30, Trump tweeted that he wished he had chosen somebody other than Sessions as his attorney general.

bfrancisco@jg.net