Ses­sions ends ‘catch and re­lease’

Vis­its bor­der to de­clare ‘new era’ of en­force­ment against il­le­gals

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions de­clared “a new era” in im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment on Tues­day, say­ing his pros­e­cu­tors will try to bring stiffer crim­i­nal charges against re­peat il­le­gal im­mi­grants and smug­glers as part of Pres­i­dent Trump’s crack­down.

Mr. Ses­sions said his en­force­ment pri­or­i­ties will end the “catch and re­lease” prac­tices of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and give the Jus­tice Depart­ment a more ac­tive role in stem­ming il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Pros­e­cu­tors should pri­or­i­tize cases against smug­glers and should bring felony charges against il­le­gal im­mi­grants who have been re­moved be­fore and have sneaked back into the U.S. or have other crim­i­nal con­vic­tions on their records, ac­cord­ing to the guid­ance is­sued by the at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“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,” Mr. Ses­sions said dur­ing a visit to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der in Nogales, Ari­zona. “The law­less­ness, the ab­di­ca­tion of the duty to en­force our laws, and the catch and re­lease poli­cies of the past are over.”

As part of a broader plan to re­duce back­logs in im­mi­gra­tion courts and to speed up the de­por­ta­tion process, the Jus­tice Depart­ment will hire 125 more im­mi­gra­tion judges over the next two years, the at­tor­ney gen­eral said.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion pi­o­neered a broad pol­icy of bring­ing crim­i­nal charges against il­le­gal im­mi­grants un­der what was dubbed Op­er­a­tion Stream­line. An­a­lysts said it was ef­fec­tive in help­ing cut the flow of il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Mex­ico, but it also led to clogged dock­ets in fed­eral courts.

Some crit­ics worry that Mr. Ses­sions’ pol­icy could slow the fed­eral sys­tem, and

oth­ers are con­cerned that it will in­still fear in im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties with­out im­prov­ing pub­lic safety.

“Crim­i­nal­iz­ing im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions among in­di­vid­u­als who are peace­ably liv­ing in and con­tribut­ing to our com­mu­ni­ties only will sow fear and chaos,” said Ali Noorani, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum. “Im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment should pri­or­i­tize vi­o­lent crim­i­nals and traf­fick­ers.”

Rep. Raul M. Gri­jalva, the Demo­crat whose district in­cludes the Nogales area, said Mr. Ses­sions’ pol­icy di­verts law en­force­ment from other pri­or­i­ties and has the po­ten­tial to split fam­i­lies.

“Law en­force­ment is not a zero-sum game. Man­dat­ing fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to fo­cus on im­mi­grants in­stead of fo­cus­ing on crime means valu­able re­sources will be tied up achiev­ing po­lit­i­cal goals in­stead of keep­ing Amer­i­cans safe,” he said. “All the while, the hu­man im­pact of fam­i­lies split apart and ef­forts to crim­i­nal­ize in­no­cent peo­ple con­tinue to erode our moral char­ac­ter as a na­tion.”

Il­le­gal en­try into the U.S. has usu­ally been charged as a mis­de­meanor, but Mr. Ses­sions’ guide­lines urge pros­e­cu­tors to seek felony charges for cases in which a per­son has a doc­u­mented his­tory of sneak­ing into the coun­try.

Felony charges will be sought against those with two or more mis­de­meanor il­le­gal en­try con­vic­tions or at least one il­le­gal en­try con­vic­tion and another ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tor such as a felony crim­i­nal his­tory, gang af­fil­i­a­tion or prior re­movals from the U.S.

Pros­e­cu­tors were also told to give pri­or­ity to iden­tity theft, visa or doc­u­ment fraud com­mit­ted by il­le­gal im­mi­grants, and as­sault on law en­force­ment of­fi­cers en­gaged in im­mi­gra­tion du­ties.

Cit­ing vi­o­lence associated with drug car­tels and the MS-13 crim­i­nal gang, Mr. Ses­sions said the mea­sures are meant to re­duce the dan­ger posed by those who en­ter the United States il­le­gally and com­mit crimes.

Im­mi­gra­tion of­fenses make up more than half of all fed­eral crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions, ac­cord­ing to fis­cal 2016 data from the Jus­tice Depart­ment that was an­a­lyzed by Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house at Syra­cuse Univer­sity.

Fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies pros­e­cuted 69,636 crim­i­nal im­mi­gra­tion of­fenses dur­ing that time, down from a peak of 97,384 pros­e­cu­tions in fis­cal 2013 — but still far higher than the 37,529 pros­e­cu­tions re­ported in fis­cal 2006.

Fed­eral courts in bor­der com­mu­ni­ties strug­gled to han­dle the crush of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, par­tic­u­larly un­der the fed­eral Op­er­a­tion Stream­line pro­gram, said Chris Rick­erd, a pol­icy coun­sel for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Na­tional Po­lit­i­cal Ad­vo­cacy Depart­ment.

With­out the proper re­sources, another in­crease in the num­ber of il­le­gal im­mi­grants pros­e­cuted, rather than de­ported ad­min­is­tra­tively, has the po­ten­tial to over­whelm the ju­di­cial sys­tem.

“There is an enor­mous cost to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” Mr. Rick­erd said. “If you don’t have the de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ju­di­cial ca­pac­ity, you are not go­ing to achieve any­thing but a long de­lay in wait­ing for your case.”

Mr. Ses­sions’ an­nounce­ment in­cluded his com­mit­ment to hire 125 ad­di­tional im­mi­gra­tion judges but made no men­tion of any ex­tra re­sources to han­dle any uptick in the num­ber of crim­i­nal cases.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s bud­get plan called for 60 more bor­der en­force­ment pros­e­cu­tors and 40 deputy U.S. mar­shals to help catch and trans­port il­le­gal im­mi­grants charged with crimes.

A Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman de­clined to com­ment on whether other re­sources might be nec­es­sary.

“The pres­i­dent’s bud­get blue­print made clear the depart­ment’s com­mit­ment to pub­lic safety, com­bat­ing vi­o­lent crime, drug traf­fick­ing and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion,” said spokesman Ian Prior. “There will be ad­di­tional de­tails in the roll­out of agency bud­gets this spring, but no fur­ther de­tails at this time.”

White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said Tues­day that the ad­min­is­tra­tion “is com­mit­ted to end­ing the prac­tice of smug­gling gangs and car­tels across the bor­der that flood our coun­try with drugs and vi­o­lence.”

Dur­ing his ad­dress at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, Mr. Ses­sions said Mr. Trump’s tough talk on im­mi­gra­tion was al­ready hav­ing a de­ter­rent ef­fect.

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion sta­tis­tics show a de­cline in the num­ber of peo­ple caught try­ing to il­le­gally cross the bor­der since Mr. Trump took of­fice. In March, nearly 17,000 il­le­gal bor­der crossers were ap­pre­hended, a 30 per­cent de­cline from Fe­bru­ary and a 64 per­cent drop from Fe­bru­ary 2016.

Ap­pre­hen­sions are con­sid­ered a yard­stick for over­all cross­ings, so a drop sig­nals that the il­le­gal flow across the bor­der is down.

That has left some ad­min­is­tra­tion crit­ics won­der­ing whether Mr. Trump’s bor­der wall is needed.

Home­land Se­cu­rity spokesman David La­pan said plans are still on track.

“We still have an is­sue of peo­ple com­ing into the coun­try un­law­fully, so there’s still a de­sire to se­cure the south­west bor­der. And we still have a di­rec­tive from the pres­i­dent to do some­thing, so DHS will con­tinue to move for­ward,” the spokesman said.

Although the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken credit for the ap­par­ent drop in il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, ad­vo­cacy groups said it doesn’t de­serve it.

The Amer­ica’s Voice Ed­u­ca­tion Fund said bor­der ap­pre­hen­sions had been trend­ing down­ward for years — long be­fore Mr. Trump won the elec­tion in Novem­ber.

Frank Sharry, the group’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, called Mr. Ses­sions’ visit to the bor­der “grand­stand­ing.”

“It’s yet another ex­am­ple of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion treat­ing all im­mi­grants as threats and as crim­i­nals,” he said. “This is the smoke­screen they use to jus­tify their ef­forts to de­port mil­lions, to keep peo­ple out of the coun­try and, ul­ti­mately, to try to re­make the racial and eth­nic com­po­si­tion of Amer­ica.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ON THE BOR­DER: At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, while vis­it­ing Ari­zona on Tues­day, said he would make im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment a key Jus­tice Depart­ment pri­or­ity and speed up de­por­ta­tions of il­le­gal im­mi­grants con­victed of fed­eral crimes.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, vis­it­ing Nogales, Ari­zona, on Tues­day, an­nounced: “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. The law­less­ness … of the past are over.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.