Arrests of those caught providing shelter to or helping illegal immigrants have sharply increased since the beginning of the Trump administration.
There were 4,532 suspects federally charged with harboring and bringing in immigrants in fiscal year 2018, according to a study by Syracuse University and reported by NPR. The numbers were an uptick from the 3,902 charged the previous year, and an over 30 percent jump from 2015.
Much of the rise followed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order in 2017 to prioritize enforcement of the harboring statute, which makes it a crime “in any manner whatsoever” to help bring a foreign national into the U.S. outside of a designated port of entry.
Sessions’ memorandum was followed by a number of other “zero tolerance” policies directed at illegal immigration.
“To those who wish to challenge the Trump Administration’s commitment to public safety, national security, and the rule of law, I warn you: Illegally entering this country will not be rewarded but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice,” Sessions said in April 2018 when rolling out a new directive, calling on U.S. attorneys along the southern border to prosecute all migrants found crossing the border illegally.
That directive is increasingly applying to those found assisting illegals, as well.
Scott Warren — a member of an organization that leaves food and water for migrants crossing the Arizona desert — was arrested in 2017 after he was seen talking to two migrants near the border.
He was charged with three felony counts, including conspiracy to harbor and transport illegals, and faces up to 20 years in prison.
“It is scary to be intimidated like this and to be targeted but there really is no choice,” Warren, one of many in hot water for allegedly helping illegals, told NPR.
“For the government, it’s kind of been an expansion of the interpretation of what it means to harbor.”
The crackdown on those harboring illegals comes as the Trump administration continues to try and manage the crisis taking place at the southern border.
Along with more money to fund barriers and security upgrades, the White House has asked Congress to pass reforms that allows officials to better handle the tens of thousands of family units and unaccompanied minors reaching the border every month.
The Department of Homeland Security, for its part, has instituted a number of measures to stymie the crisis.
DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Tuesday reached an agreement with Guatemala that aims to control the country’s illegal migration. On that same day, DHS announced the creation of a new position dedicated to processing and caring for illegal migrants, allowing Border Patrol agents to focus on their main job: policing the border.
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