U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has referred to unaccompanied minors from South and Central American countries as "wolves in sheep's clothing."
Sessions made the comments in an address to the local and national law enforcement in Boston on border security and gang violence issues.
The statement has sparked a fierce backlash with activists decrying Sessions' warning to officials as racist and backwards.
Nearly 40 people gathered outside the Boston courthouse with signs of “Jeff: Go Home” and “Racism is #Notwelcome to protest Sessions' "backwards, racist, anti-civil liberties policies."
In his address on gang violence, Sessions said transnational gangs like MS-13 use the garb of "unaccompanied refugee minors" to bring future felons into the country and "recruit new members."
The "unaccompanied refugee minors" program was originally developed in the 1980's for minors from Southeast Asia who didn't have a parent or a relative to take care of them. Under this program, they could come to the U.S. to be placed under the state's long-term care.
“This is America. We will not allow the likes of MS-13 or any other gang to prey upon our communities, to decapitate individuals with machetes, baseball bats, and chains,” Sessions said.
In August, Trump administration terminated the Central American Minors program that offered a window for minors escaping violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The decision affected at least 2,700 children who were planning to travel to the U.S. under the program.
Sessions said the Justice Department is deploying more resources to tighten the security at the U.S.-Mexico border and is also planning to crack down on gang violence by curbing illegal immigration.