Nogales (Arizona), Apr 12 (AP) Attorney General Jeff Sessions toured the US-Mexico border and unveiled what he described as a new get-tough approach to immigration prosecutions under President Donald Trump.
The nation’s top law enforcement official yesterday outlined a series of changes that he said mark the start of a new push to rid American cities and the border of what he described as “filth” brought on by drug cartels and criminal organizations.
The tour included visiting a port of entry, where Sessions exited an SUV in a white shirt and baseball cap before entering a restricted area.
Sessions has been steadily expanding the Justice Department’s role in the anti-immigration agenda of the Trump administration, but the border trip offered the most comprehensive look yet at his plans.
During his visit, he urged federal prosecutors to intensify their focus on immigration crimes such as illegal border crossing or smuggling others into the US.
Such prosecutions are already happening on a large scale.
They made up more than half of all federal prosecutions in fiscal year 2016, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. But prosecutions were slightly down from fiscal year 2015.
In a three-page memo, Sessions told US attorneys to prioritize immigration prosecutions by appointing a border security coordinator who can oversee investigations, keep statistics and provide legal advice and training to prosecutors. The coordinators would meet regularly with federal immigration authorities.
In addition, Sessions said federal prosecutors must consider bringing felony charges against those who have illegally entered the country more than once as well as those who marry to evade immigration laws.
He also urged prosecutors to consider charging those illegally in the country with felony identity theft and document fraud.
“This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” he said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over.”
Sessions defended Trump’s proposed border wall, saying it will be another tool to fight illegal immigration amid efforts within the Justice Department and other branches of government to punish and deter border crossers.
Critics blasted the initiatives announced by Sessions as fear-mongering and anti-immigrant rhetoric not rooted in facts.
“Once again, Attorney General Sessions is scaring the public by linking immigrants to criminals despite studies showing that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than the native born,” said Gregory Z. Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Sessions made the announcement in Nogales, a border city that has witnessed a dramatic drop in immigrant and drug smuggling in recent years as more people enter the country in Texas, many of them Central Americans fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. (AP) RB
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.