(Adds quotes from Sessions)
By Brad Poole
Nogales, Ariz., April 11 U.S. Attorney General
Jeff Sessions traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday to
make his case for increased prosecutions of illegal immigrants,
pressuring U.S. attorneys to prioritize cases against criminal
Sessions, a long-time proponent of tougher immigration
enforcement, told U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at
the Port of Nogales, Arizona, that more illegal migrants should
be prosecuted as criminals.
It is normally the role of the Secretary of Homeland
Security to meet border agents. But Sessions made the visit to
highlight his focus on enforcing federal laws as dozens of U.S.
cities try to shield illegal immigrants from stepped-up
prosecution and deportation efforts.
"Why are we doing this?" the former U.S. senator said.
"Because it is what the duly enacted laws of the United States
Sessions said that each U.S. attorney would be required to
designate a point person on border security prosecutions by
April 18. The person in that position, known as a border
security coordinator, would be directed to coordinate with the
Department of Homeland Security, according to Sessions' memo.
The directive did not go beyond existing laws, but Sessions
said his order "mandates the prioritizations of such
enforcement" by U.S. attorneys.
The Trump administration has threatened to cut off U.S.
Justice Department grants to so-called sanctuary cities that
fail to assist federal immigration authorities.
Police in such cities have argued that targeting illegal
migrants is an improper use of law enforcement resources.
Sessions has said a failure to deport aliens convicted of
criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk.
Under U.S. law, anyone who harbors or transports an
undocumented immigrant, has crossed the border illegally two or
more times, resists an immigration officer's arrest or commits
travel document fraud is subject to criminal prosecution.
Other immigrants apprehended for crossing the border
illegally face civil procedures, with deportation the only
Sessions' announcement was the latest move by the Trump
administration to deter illegal immigration. President Donald
Trump has also called for not releasing migrants with pending
court cases, targeting more people in immigration raids and
building a wall on the southwest border.
Speaking just 50 yards from a border fence on the
Arizona-Mexico border, Sessions said that adding more fencing to
the border will be a "force multiplier" against illegal
He also said the Justice Department plans to add 50 more
immigration judges in 2017 and 75 more in 2018. Immigration
judges oversee civil immigration cases, but there is a backlog
of over 540,000 pending cases due a shortage of judges.
(Writing by Julia Edwards Ainsley in Washington; Editing by Dan