USA attorneys around the country will devote more resources to prosecuting immigration offenses, including illegal re-entry to the country, document fraud, identity theft and smuggling undocumented immigrants across the border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday.
The remarks came after Sessions spoke in Arizona, telling the audience that America was entering the "Trump era", and that illegal immigrants should "be forewarned". But his Tuesday speech during his first visit to the border offered the most comprehensive look yet at his plans for federal prosecutions of those in the country illegally.
Sessions said the MS-13 and cartels had turned cities and suburbs into warzones, raped and killed innocent citizens, and smuggled poison and human beings across the border.
"Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings", he said in prepared remarks. The full sentence reads: "It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth".
Sessions told reporters: "This is the Trump era".
Also announced on Tuesday were streamlined procedures for hiring dozens of new immigration judges along with mandated detention of those arrested at the border.
Illegal entry into the United States can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. The nation's top law enforcement officer vowed to confront the gangs and cartels plaguing the region and said the administration will bring more felony prosecutions against immigrants entering the country illegally. The attorney general outlined his new directives for federal prosecutors to prioritize litigation against undocumented immigrants who enter and live in the USA and those who aid them.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to law enforcement officers at the Thomas Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis Missouri, U.S. March 31, 2017.
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But immigrant advocacy groups criticized the new policy for what they said amounted to targeting migrants who pose no threat to US citizens. "This is the Trump era", he said.
The directive did not go beyond existing laws, but Sessions said his order "mandates the prioritizations of such enforcement" by USA attorneys.
Those detained at the border trying to cross into the US will face civil action, and deportation is set to be the only punishment. "We do have that challenge, we want people to understand that they are not entitled to enter unlawfully".
Sessions urged federal prosecutors to intensify their focus on immigration crimes such as illegal crossing or smuggling others into the US, even though such prosecutions are already happening on a large scale.
When possible, charging undocumented immigrants "with document fraud and aggravated identity theft".
Aside from outlining new policy, Sessions didn't miss the opportunity to rehash the tenuous link between violent crime and undocumented immigration.
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