Sessions Gives Federal Prosecutors Marching Orders on Border Security

COMMENTARY Immigration

Sessions Gives Federal Prosecutors Marching Orders on Border Security

Apr 17th, 2017 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues – including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visits the Mariposa border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, 11 April 2017. GARY M WILLIAMS/EFE/Newscom

Key Takeaways

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear that he will carry out the mandate he was given by President Donald Trump.

Sessions directed each of the 94 offices of U.S. Attorneys to appoint a “Border Security Coordinator” by April 18.

In his speech, General Sessions also announced plans to hire 50 more immigration judges this year to handle the large backlog of cases.

During his trip to the southern border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear that he will carry out the mandate he was given by President Donald Trump: to vigorously enforce our immigration laws, and go after the human smugglers and traffickers who work for the Mexican cartels that have caused many of our border security problems.

In his April 11 speech to Customs and Border Protection agents in Nogales, Arizona, Sessions bluntly stated his intent to go after the “transnational gangs like MS-13 and international cartels” that are flooding “our country with drugs” and “leave death and violence in their wake.” According to Sessions, it is “criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document-forgers” who want to “overthrow our system of lawful immigration”:

[They] turn cities and suburbs into war zones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. ... Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings.

[It is on the border,] on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.

These are strong words, indeed -- words that certainly had never been spoken by the two attorneys general who served in the prior administration.

Sessions also announced that he was sending a memorandum to all federal prosecutors directing them to make prosecution of certain immigration offenses a higher priority. As Sessions said -- in what seems common sense to most Americans -- “consistent and vigorous enforcement … will disrupt” these organizations and “deter unlawful conduct.”

Among the enforcement priorities listed by Sessions were the following:

  • Prosecuting those who bring in and harbor aliens, who aid or assist criminal aliens to enter, and who bring in aliens for “immoral purposes” (sex traffickers). Priority will be given to those who bring in three or more illegal aliens or where there are aggravating circumstances, such as serious bodily injury, physical or sexual assault, or death.
  • Bringing felony charges against illegal aliens who have already been deported at least twice or have been deported at least once and have a history of felony crime, gang membership, or other aggravating factors. Also targeted for felony prosecutions: anyone who knowingly enters into a sham marriage to evade immigration laws.
  • Going after illegal aliens who engage in identity theft or immigration-related fraud with felony prosecutions.
  • Prosecuting illegal aliens who assault, resist or otherwise impede immigration officers and agents.

Sessions directed each of the 94 offices of U.S. Attorneys to appoint a “Border Security Coordinator” by April 18. The coordinators will oversee the immigration enforcement program of each office, coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, and report the “prosecution statistics related to these offenses.” This latter requirement is obviously an attempt to force transparency on the offices and to provide a measuring stick to gauge how well the attorneys are actually carrying out the attorney general’s directive.

This is particularly important, since resistance from some federal prosecutors is likely.

Daily Beast article about Sessions’ memorandum quoted an anonymous “veteran federal prosecutor” denouncing the new policy as “totally horrifying” and adding, “We’re all terrified about it, and we don’t know what to do.”

The fact that a lawyer in the career ranks of the Justice Department doesn’twant to enforce federal immigration law is itself “horrifying,” and a sad reflection on the Department’s hiring practices.

How can he or she not “know what to do”?

The choice is crystal clear: Either comply with his or her sworn oath (to uphold the law) and follow this lawful directive or resign.

In addition to taking criminal aliens, smugglers, and those who aid and abet them off the street, increased prosecutions will also have a deterrent effect. For anyone who doubts that, General Sessions cited some stunning numbers:

[From] January to February of this year, illegal crossings dropped by 40 percent, which was unprecedented.

Then in March:

A 72 percent drop compared to the month before the president was inaugurated. That’s the lowest monthly figure for at least 17 years(emphasis added).

As Sessions said, “this is no accident.” It results from:

[A president who] understands the threat, who is not afraid to publicly identify the threat and stand up to it, and who makes clear to law enforcement that the leadership of their country finally has their back.

In his speech, General Sessions also announced plans to hire 50 more immigration judges this year to handle the large backlog of cases. Another 75 judges will be added next year with the help of a new, streamlined hiring process.

This comes on top of the administration’s previously announced plans to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents -- not to mention building a secure wall along the Mexican border.

At the end of his speech, General Sessions poignantly referred to Americans who have been killed by illegal aliens with lengthy criminal records. He took an oath “to protect this country from enemies, foreign and domestic” and he intends to enforce “the duly enacted laws of the United States.”

Sessions also honored the victims of prior policy:

[How] can we look the parents and loved ones of Kate Steinle, Grant Ronnebeck and so many others in the eye and say we are doing everything possible to prevent such tragedies from every occurring again?

This piece originally appeared in PJ Media