The Trump administration is signaling a tougher stance regarding law enforcement along the nation’s southern border in light of recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics.
April 2018 results show an approximately 200 percent increase in reports of illegal border crossings as compared to the previous April. Department of Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Houlton issued a statement this week intended to announce a policy of “zero tolerance” in addressing the issue going forward.
“If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution,” he said.
The new stance will reportedly remove the possibility for special consideration on the basis of family unification or for any other reason.
“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.”
A corresponding spike in staffing within the agency has reportedly already begun to take place.
According to Houton, the DHS is in the process of ensuring “the necessary resources” are in place to “promptly adjudicate cases through our civil immigration system or through criminal prosecution.”
Among the “surge” of resources he described were increased placement of “asylum officers, immigration judges, prosecutors, and ICE attorneys.”
Houlton’s announcement concluded with a direct threat for those targeted by the new policy.
“To those seeking to abuse our generous laws — we are watching,” he wrote. “We will not sit back and watch our laws exploited. If you make a false immigration claim, you will be referred for prosecution. If you assist or coach individuals in making false immigration claims, you will be referred for prosecution.”
Following a notable jump in the number of border crossings in March over the same month in 2017, the Department of Justice issued a similarly worded directive aimed at addressing the issue.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement at the time describing the situation as “unacceptable” and calling for increased prosecution of immigration law violators.
“Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest — that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border,” he wrote. “As a result, a crisis has erupted at our Southwest Border that necessitates an escalated effort to prosecute those who choose to illegally cross our border.”
As part of Sessions’ directive, U.S. attorneys in areas near the border were given authorization to prosecute DHS referrals “to the extent practicable.”
Houlton also issued a response to last month’s statistics.
“Illegal aliens continue to exploit our immigration laws,” he said. “We need to close these dangerous loopholes that are being taken advantage of each and every day, gain operational control of the border, and fully fund the border wall system.”
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