Immigration Law

Sessions tells federal prosecutors to make criminal immigration offenses a priority

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Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed federal prosecutors to place a higher priority on prosecution of criminal immigration offenses.

Sessions announced the directive Tuesday in a press conference at the U.S. border with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona, report Politico, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press.

“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned,” Sessions told reporters in remarks that deviated slightly from those he had prepared. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of duty to enforce our laws and the catch and release policies of the past are over.”

Sessions’ memo to federal prosecutors (PDF) said each U.S. Attorney’s office should designate a “border security coordinator” to oversee the prosecutions. And he pledged to hire 50 additional immigration judges this year, and 75 more immigration judges next year, using a new “streamlined hiring plan.”

Sessions said federal prosecutors should consider felony prosecutions for immigrants who enter the country illegally and have two or more previous illegal entry convictions. Felony prosecutions should also be considered if there is one prior illegal entry conviction and there are aggravating circumstances such as gang membership or a felony criminal history.

He also said felony prosecutions should be considered when a defendant enters into a marriage to evade immigration laws. The memo outlined other priority prosecutions, including for harboring or transporting immigrants in the country illegally and for aggravated identity theft.

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