US Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors and judges to take a tougher line on undocumented immigrants on Tuesday, saying more severe punishment could deter illegal border crossers.

Speaking in Nogales, Arizona, Sessions said anyone who crosses the US-Mexico border without legal immigration documents would now be detained and presented to a judge. In the past, most were just delivered back over the border.

He also ordered prosecutors to jail people who transport and harbor illegal immigrants; to lodge felony charges against people caught a second time sneaking into the country; and to charge anyone caught using false papers with fraud and identity theft, which brings a minimum two-year jail sentence.

“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions told an audience of border patrol agents.

“The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over.”

This morning, I announced new guidance directing all federal prosecutors to prioritize criminal immigration enforcement. These prosecutors are now required to consider for prosecution all of the following offenses:

  • The transportation or harboring of aliens. We are going to shut down and jail those who are profiting off this lawlessness — people who smuggle gang members and convicted criminals across the border, and who prey on those who don’t know how dangerous the journey can be.

  • Further, where an alien has unlawfully entered the country, which is a misdemeanor, that alien will now be charged with a felony if they unlawfully enter or attempt to enter a second time and certain aggravating circumstances are present.

  • Also, aliens that illegally re-enter the country after prior removal will be referred for felony prosecution — and a priority will be given to such offenses, especially where indicators of gang affiliation, a risk to public safety or criminal history are present.

  • Fourth: where possible, prosecutors are directed to charge criminal aliens with document fraud and aggravated identity theft — the latter carrying a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly: I have directed that all 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices make the prosecution of assault on a federal law enforcement officer a top priority. If someone dares to assault one of our people in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it.
    Source – Department of Justice website

Sessions, who came into office with a strong mandate from President Donald Trump to crack down on undocumented immigrants, described the southern US border as “ground zero” in the fight against drug smuggling and transnational gangs like the largely Salvadoran MS-13.

“It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand,” he said.

Sessions said the Justice Department would be hiring another 125 immigration judges over 2016-2017 to handle an expected surge in cases arising from the crackdown.

He added that Trump’s approach was already seeing results, citing a 40 percent fall in illegal immigrant crossings from January to February.

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