PHOENIX — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday the federal government would take a more aggressive approach to immigration prosecution starting immediately.
Sessions outlined the series of changes, which included plans to add 50 judges to immigration courts this year and 75 next year, while touring the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.
Sessions said the changes marked the start of a new era to rid American cities and the border of what he described as “filth” brought on by drug cartels.
In a statement Sessions said, “As we speak, I am issuing a document to all federal prosecutors that mandates the prioritization of such enforcement.”
• The transportation or harboring of aliens will be targeted. “We are going to shut down and jail those who have been profiting off this lawlessness.”
• Anyone who unlawfully enters the country will now be charged with a felony. Currently, it is a misdemeanor.
• Aliens that illegally re-enter the country after prior removal will be referred for felony prosecution.
• All 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices have been directed to prioritize prosecution of anyone who assaults a federal law enforcement. “If someone dares to assault one of our folks in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it.”
Sessions’ tour crossed mostly rough terrain along the international border in Nogales, Arizona, less than 100 miles south of Tucson.
It was his first visit to the Mexico border as a White House cabinet member. The tour was set for 10 a.m.
Sessions has made immigration enforcement a prime concern for the Justice Department.
“We need a lawful system of immigration,” Sessions said after his confirmation in February.
“One that serves the interest of the people of the United States. That’s not wrong, that’s not immoral, that’s not indecent.”
The former Alabama senator has said he will quicken deportations of immigrants in the country illegally who were convicted of federal crimes.
In March, Sessions said that the Department would expand an existing program designed to hold deportation hearings for immigrants while they were in federal prison.
Holding the hearings before the inmates’ sentences were finished would allow the government to deport them as soon as they were released, rather than waiting until they went through immigration court.
The proposal would set up 14 federal prisons and six contract facilities for immigration removal proceedings.
After the border stop, Sessions will visit the West Valley.
He will address the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Litchfield Park at 1 p.m.
After that, he will speak with service members at Luke Air Force Base near Glendale around 3:15 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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