WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed some of the criticism he and the White House have received in recent weeks regarding the administration's immigration policy in an exclusive interview Thursday with CBN News.
Sessions was personally criticized when he quoted scripture to justify separating families at the southern border, something CBN's David Brody asked him about.
"I don't think it was an extreme position that I took," said Sessions. "I directed it not to say that religion requires these laws on immigration. I just simply said to my Christian friends, 'You know, the United States has laws and I believe that Paul was clear in Romans that we should try to follow the laws of government of which we are a part.'"
Sessions alluded to the Bible again when he discussed the morality of immigration law.
"I believe, strongly, that it is moral, decent and just for a nation to have a lawful system of immigration," Sessions said. "I'm not aware of a single nation in the world that doesn't have some sort of rules about who can enter and who cannot enter. I believe there is biblical support for that, too."
Sessions told Brody that all of the criticism has not gone unfelt, especially the criticism coming from his Christian brothers and sisters.
"It is painful," Sessions said. "I am pretty well resolved that we try to consider the concerns that people have if they're legitimate."
"I have critics from a lot of different areas. I think our church people are really concerned about children – that's what I'm hearing," he added. "I feel it. I think there's a legitimate concern there and I'm pleased to work with the president to address those concerns."
But as the top US law enforcement officer, Sessions said it's his duty to uphold constitutional laws.
"I do have a responsibility to ensure that within my realm that the laws are faithfully carried out in our country. And if someone thinks the laws are wrong, then they should go to Congress," he said.
This week, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that takes steps to keep families from being separated at the border. Critics say the administration was pressured to make the change and Sessions acknowledged the negative optics.
"It hasn't been good and the American people don't like the idea that we are separating families," he said. "We never really intended to do that. What we intended was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime that they have committed."
Session said the executive order is "the right thing," adding that the Department of Justice will act in the "most compassionate way possible."
"We're saying, 'We are going to keep you together. We're going to do our best in every way possible to protect the family unit and give you a fair adjudication, a claim of asylum if you make it,' and then that is the way we will process these cases," he explained. "I think that's right and just."
Sessions said the plan is not to hold illegal immigrant families in a detention center for months on end.
"It's not indefinite really," Sessions told CBN News. "Because we can't hold and we will not be holding people for extended periods of time awaiting a hearing on asylum."
Regarding the inspector general's report on the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, Sessions said the DOJ is "digesting it carefully," adding that the inspector general was "open, critical at points, and reported truth."
Sessions also weighed in on the steps he's taken to weed out issues at the FBI.
"We've got a new FBI director, a new deputy director, a new chief of staff, a new legal counsel, a new press person," Sessions said.
"Too many leaks coming out of this," he continued. "(FBI Director) Chris Wray is a man of integrity and ability and he is in his own proper step-by-step way improving the FBI, addressing the concerns."
"And I think the American people need to know not only are our agents throughout America first-rate American patriots, as you will find anywhere," he said. "But we are going to improve the headquarters here in Washington."
You can see more of Brody's interview with Sessions on Friday's edition of "The 700 Club."