AG Sessions Delivers Remarks on Immigration Enforcement and Border Security

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On April 11, 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks on immigration enforcement in Las Cruces, New Mexico [PDF version]. In his remarks, Sessions commented on the recent uptick in illegal border crossings, on some of the new initiatives being undertaken by his own Department of Justice (DOJ), and on the broader Trump Administration to curtail illegal immigration. We will review some of the interesting points in his remarks with reference to relevant articles on our site.

Attorney General Sessions commented on the “significant increase in border crossings” in recent months. He noted that, early in the term of President Donald Trump, the number of aliens encountered at the Southwest Border was dramatically lower than in previous years. As we discussed on site, fiscal year 2018 initially saw the lowest number of illegal border crossings in several decades [see blog]. However, in March of 2018, 50,308 aliens were either apprehended at the Southwest Border or found to be inadmissible, more than triple the 16,588 in the same month in 2017 [see blog]. Sessions listed several factors contributing to the rise in apprehensions and inadmissibility findings near the Southwest Border:

The “booming” U.S. economy, which is a magnet for illegal immigration;
The lack of a wall on the southern border;
The failure of Congress to fund the wall and other key border security measures, which sends “a message of irresolution and uncertainty”;
The existence of “loopholes” in the immigration laws that are exploited “by illegal aliens and open border radicals”;
The policy of releasing aliens who establish a “credible fear of persecution,” when many then fail to appear for immigration hearings; and
Laws and policies precluding the expeditious return of “unaccompanied alien children” (statutory term) arriving from Central America (Sessions noted that unaccompanied alien children from Canada and Mexico are returned quickly).

Despite the problems leading to the recent uptick in illegal crossings of the Southwest border, Sessions praised the leadership of President Trump on immigration enforcement issues. Sessions listed several initiatives being undertaken to “take[] criminals off the streets and … restor[e] the rule of law to our immigration system”:

1. President Trump directed the Department of Defense to work with the Department of Homeland Security in securing the border. Please see our article on President Trump's decision to request National Guard members to patrol the Southwest border [see blog].
2. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has undertaken measures to reduce the backlog of more than 680,000 cases in immigration courts. This includes the surge in assignments of more than 100 immigration judges to the border
[see blog], the increase in video-teleconference hearings [see blog], and a new expectation for the next fiscal year that immigration judges will complete at least 700 cases annually. The last point is notable in that the new immigration judge quotas have been leaked to several news outlets, but the DOJ has thus far not published them or issued many official statements on the new guidelines.
3. The DOJ has appointed a Border Security Coordinator for each U.S. Attorney's Office.
4. The DOJ is suing California for its new law turning the state into a “sanctuary state.”

In criticizing “sanctuary jurisdictions,” Sessions told state law enforcement personnel that he was not asking them to enforce the immigration laws on behalf of the Federal government. However, he encouraged interested local jurisdictions to consider joining the 287(g) program, referring to section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows local authorities to enter into agreements with the Federal government to assist in the enforcement of the immigration laws. Please see our recent post on jurisdictions joining the section 287(g) program [see article].

Sessions noted that President Trump is determined to end “catch and release” policies. To that effect, the President has directed the DOJ, in addition to other relevant agencies, to brief him on progress made to this effect [see article].

Finally, Sessions noted that he had issued a DOJ memorandum directing U.S. Attorney's Offices along the Southwest border to adopt a zero-tolerance policy with regard to illegal entry and re-entry and to criminally prosecute illegal entry and illegal reentry cases referred by the Department of Homeland Security . We wrote about this new policy in a full article [see article]. In support of the rule, Sessions stated that, in the past year, illegal entry prosecutions increased sevenfold in New Mexico, and that this had proven to be effective in reducing the number of illegal entry offenses. He stated that his policy made clear that “if you break into this country, we will prosecute you.”

Attorney General Sessions' remarks highlight some of the recent policies adopted by the Trump Administration on immigration enforcement. The Administration is clearly looking to deterring illegal border crossings in the first instance and increasing the pace of processing removal cases . The policies adapted to this effect are generally designed to favor the Government in seeking to remove aliens. An alien facing removal or immigration detention for any reason should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for a case-specific consultation.

AG Sessions Delivers Remarks on Immigration Enforcement and Border Security