NEW ORLEANS -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions received the lifetime achievement award from the National Sheriff Association Monday during their annual conference in New Orleans.
Sessions took the opportunity on stage to show his support for law enforcement, call for longer sentences for criminals and address to controversy at the US-Mexico border where families are being separated by authorities as they illegally enter the country.
Sessions spoke on recidivism, the amount of criminals that commit crimes again after being released from jail. The AG called on legislatures to "make sure we incapacitate those dangerous criminals and protect the public," apparently calling for new laws to increase prison time or prevent the early release of offenders.
His focus quickly turned to the US-Mexico border.
"There's an important conversation in this country about whether we want to be a country of laws or if we want to be a country without borders," Sessions said. "We cannot and will not encourage people to bring their children - or other children - to the country illegally by giving them immunity in the process."
Sessions directly addressed the controversy surrounding new video and images of children being detained in cells and cages after their parents are arrested for illegally crossing the border.
"We do not want to separate children from their parents, we do not want parents to bring their children in illegally," he said. "We can not and will not encourage people to bring their children or other children to the country unlawfully by giving them immunity."
Sessions went on to say that the children being detained separately from their families are being taken care of.
"They're not put in jail of course, they're taken care of. That's an enormous cost that's being incurred by our government," Sessions said. "This country is dedicated to caring for those children."
Many have said that the separations are being used as a negotiating tactic to pressure lawmakers to give Trump his border wall. However, according to law expert and Tulane University professor Laila Hlass, there is little evidence to show it would prevent illegal immigration.
"We actually have a wall along much of the border and the truth of the matter is if people are fleeing violence they are going to come one way or another and that's not going to stop them," Hlass said.
Sessions, however, maintains this is about public safety despite the opposition from both sides of the aisle.
"If we build a wall, we pass some legislation, we close some loopholes we won't face these terrible choices," Sessions said.
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As Sessions spoke, a protest formed outside the convention center.
Police held back protesters as they chanted against Sessions and held signs calling for the reunion of children and their families at the border.