NOGALES, Arizona - On his first trip to the U.S.-Mexican border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reaffirmed the Trump administration’s tough stance on immigration, calling it a “new era” of lawfulness. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to prioritize immigration cases, especially those involving people who entered the country without documents or to transport or harbor people.
“We will secure this border and bring the full weight of both the immigration courts and the federal enforcement and prosecutors to combat this attack,” Sessions said.
Among his announcements, which were also presented in an official three-page memo for federal prosecutors, Sessions directed the appointment of new border security coordinators to oversee immigration prosecutions.
According to Sessions, authorities have made "dramatic progress on the border in recent months." But he called for even greater efforts, saying, “The battle is far from over.”
Here are some of the measures announced by the Attorney General:
Transport of migrants
Sessions urged prosecution for those transporting migrants into the country, especially those "who are bringing in three or more aliens to the United States and those who are transporting or harboring three or more aliens." The document also listed aggravating circumstances, such as physical or sexual assault or the death of a person.
In Arizona, Sessions vowed to halt the "booming business" of drug and human smuggling.
"We are going to shut down and jail those who have been profiting off this lawlessness - people smuggling gang members across the border, helping convicted criminals reenter this country, and preying on those who don't know how dangerous the journey can be."
Punishment for illegal re-entry
Sessions directed felony charges for any immigrants who have two or more misdemeanor illegal entry convictions or at least one illegal entry conviction and another aggravating factor, such as a felony criminal history, gang affiliation, or prior removal from the U.S.
Sessions insisted that authorities halt the practice of ‘catch and release,’ or releasing undocumented immigrants who are detained in their attempt to cross the border.
Harsher sentences for those who commit fraud
The memo calls on prosecutors to crack down on identity theft; those found guilty will receive a minimum of two years in prison.
This is already established in current immigration law.
More Immigration Judges
Reforms include an increase of 25 immigration judges at detention centers along the border, and the hiring of 50 new immigration judges in 2017 and an additional 75 in 2018.
‘Border Security Coordinators’
The memorandum mandates that each district designate a Border Security Coordinator, who is in charge of tracking investigations and cases, undergoing training, and reporting prosecution statistics, among other roles.