Adding new details to the Trump administration’s tougher stance on border enforcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a group of criminal investigators this week that individuals crossing into the U.S. illegally should be prosecuted without exception.
“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you,” he said Monday in Arizona. “It’s that simple.”
In addition to prosecuting those who actually enter the nation illegally, Sessions said the Justice Department will be coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security to target accomplices and those who violate other immigration laws.
He said both agencies are committed to prosecuting immigration cases until “100 percent” have been adjudicated, according to UPI.
Sessions was addressing the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies when he made the new zero-tolerance proclamation, which included apparent instructions to separate children and parents who illegally enter America together.
“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he said.
While supporters of President Donald Trump’s hardline position on immigration celebrated the new directive, many others described separating families at the border as a “cruel” way to address the issue.
Though the comment sparked criticism against Sessions and the administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan attempted to portray the move as similar to any other type of criminal procedure.
“Every law enforcement agency in this country separates a parent from a child when they are prosecuted for a crime,” he said.
DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton echoed Session’s comments last week when he announced a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. His comments came in response to statistics showing a 200 percent increase in reports of illegal border crossings last month compared to April 2017.
“If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution,” Houlton said.
Prior considerations that prioritized family unification or any other unique situations will no longer be a factor in considering whether to prosecute immigration law violations, he said.
“DHS has zero tolerance for those who break the law and will no longer exempt classes or groups of people from prosecution,” Houlton said. “Whether you are a single adult or an adult member of a family unity, if you are apprehended you will be prosecuted and put in removal proceedings.”
In his comments Monday, Sessions provided details about the mission of dozens of immigration attorneys and judges dispatched to Southwestern border states last week. He said they will be on hand to handle asylum claims.
At one point during his speech, the attorney general was interrupted by a protester with a loudspeaker who called him an “evil, evil, evil man.”
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