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Federal judge in Arizona says courts not equipped for more border cases

PHOENIX — The U.S. attorney general announced this week that anyone caught crossing the border illegally would be detained and referred for prosecution, but a federal district court judge in Arizona said there’s one major problem.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins said the courts in Arizona were already working at capacity and can’t handle more prosecutions.

“We don’t have the staff,” he said. “We don’t have the personnel. We don’t have the room to be able to do anything more than we’re doing right now with regards to these type of cases.”

Collins said federal prosecutors in Arizona are struggling to keep up with the case load. They’re getting about 75 cases involving unauthorized U.S.-Mexico border crossings per day.

Speaking outside an immigration enforcement center in San Diego on Monday, Sessions issued a blunt warning to immigrants who try to cross the border illegally.

“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

He said the Department of Homeland Security would be referring all unauthorized border crossings for prosecution and that the Department of Justice would take up the cases.

Sessions also said he was sending 35 prosecutors to the Southwest, including six for Arizona, and moving 18 immigration judges to the border.

“These are supervisory judges that don’t have existing caseloads and will be able to function full time on moving these cases,” he said, adding there would be a 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges.

But Collins said he hasn’t seen any help from the feds yet.

“We haven’t been given one extra judge, one extra clerk, not even one extra paper clip at this point,” he said.

Collins said additional resources as well as bigger buildings also were needed.

“We only have so much room, and it’s full,” he said.

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