U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the U.S.-Mexico border as "ground zero," pitting ranchers and other U.S. citizens against cartels and violent gangs and said immigration enforcement policies of past administrations have come to an end.
"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," he said.
Since he was confirmed, Sessions has widened the Justice Department’s role in immigration prosecutions. His visit to the Nogales shipping port was the first time he unfolded details of what that means.
Sessions announced the department is expanding prosecution parameters and focusing on those who cross the border illegally more than once. That includes prosecuting repeat offenders as felons in some circumstances and adding aggravated identity theft to some cases. That carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence.
"We will secure this border and bring the full weight of both the immigration courts and the federal enforcement and prosecutors to combat this attack on our national security and our sovereignty," he said.
The Justice Department has already started a policy of sending judges to detention centers to hear cases. Sessions said he will hire 125 new judges, 50 in 2017, and 75 in 2018 to hear immigration cases. His announcement on crime, at times focusing on MS-13 gang members, the Zetas drug cartel and what he described as beheadings by machete attack, apparently referring to a case involving a MS-13 gang member killing a teenager in Texas with a machete.
Sessions' plan for an increase in prosecution contrasts a study from the Pew Research Center released last month showing that immigration prosecutions already top the list of federal prosecutions, second only to drug-related offenses.
From Facebook LIVE: The Arizona Republic's Rafael Carranza and Fronteras Desk Senior Editor Michel Marizco discuss U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' widened criminal immigration enforcement measures in Nogales.