On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions met with law enforcement, members of the military, and border agents in Nogales, Ariz., urging their confidence in the administration as they push to implement policies boosting agents working to secure the southern border. The tone of his comments at times resembled the direct rhetoric President Trump used when discussing illegal immigration and cartels during the campaign.
Sessions declared, “This is a new era, this is the Trump era.”
“When we talk about MS-13 and the cartels, what do we mean? We mean international criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent civilians, and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders,” Sessions said.
“It is here on this very sliver of land—on this border—that we take our stand. It is a direct threat to our legal system, peace and prosperity,” he said.
Along with his visit, Sessions issued a memo to all U.S. attorneys asking federal prosecutors to renew focus on immigration enforcement. He asked them to focus on specific offenses that can help prevent and deter illegal immigration, as well as to designate a border security coordinator to lead these efforts.
In his memo, Sessions added that U.S. attorneys should make the prosecution of assault on a federal law enforcement officer a “top priority.”
“If someone dares to assault one of our folks in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it,” Sessions said.
Sessions’ visit comes amid new questions over the future of Trump’s promised border wall. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has hinted that the wall is not a “leading priority,” and, to the dismay of die-hard Trump supporters, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told lawmakers last week that the administration would not build a wall from “sea to shining sea.”
But during his visit, Sessions made it clear that enforcing immigration laws is of high importance.
The Tuscon Sector, which covers most of Arizona, once was considered one of the most congested areas in illegal border crossings and drug smuggling. But in recent years, that reputation has shifted to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
“We hear you, and we have your back,” Sessions said Tuesday. “We will secure this border and bring the full weight of both the immigration courts and federal criminal enforcement to combat this attack on our national security and sovereignty.”
Sessions also announced that the department would add 50 immigration judges to the bench this year, and an additional 75 judges in 2018.
“The catch and release policies of the past are over,” he said