Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new wave of immigration enforcement in a Tuesday speech, directing U.S. Attorneys to prioritize immigration enforcement and announcing the hiring of several new immigration judges.
“This is the Trump era,” the attorney general said.
“When we talk about MS-13 and the cartels, what do we mean? We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens, and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders,” Sessions said in prepared remarks to Customs and Border Protection officers. “Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings.”
Speaking in Arizona, Sessions added, “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth. In this fight, I am here to tell you, the brave men and women of Customs and Border Protection: we hear you, and we have your back.”
The attorney general announced that federal prosecutors are mandated to consider for felony prosecution people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants, and illegal immigrants who re-enter the country after being deported, especially those with a criminal history or gang affiliation. According to a memo signed Tuesday, prosecutors should, where possible, also charge illegal immigrants “with document fraud and aggravated identity theft — the latter carrying a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.”
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly: I have directed that all 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices make the prosecution of assault on a federal law enforcement officer — that’s all of you — a top priority. If someone dares to assault one of our folks in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it,” Sessions added in his prepared remarks. The attorney general wrote in the memo that prosecutors should, where possible, seek orders of removal in these cases outlined above.
U.S. Attorney’s Offices are also directed to designate a prosecutor as their Border Security Coordinator in order to implement these new immigration enforcement priorities.
“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said. “In that vein, I am also pleased to announce a series of reforms regarding immigration judges to reduce the significant backlogs in our immigration courts.”
These reforms include a surge 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.
Sessions was an immigration hawk as a senator and has worked to curb illegal immigration through the DOJ. He has previously announced that sanctuary cities will lose federal law enforcement grants and expanded a program designed to quickly deport imprisoned immigrants.