US Attorney General talks new immigration efforts at Arizona bor - Tucson News Now

US Attorney General talks new immigration efforts at Arizona border

"This is a new era. This is the Trump era," US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday in Nogales, AZ. (Source: KOLD News 13) "This is a new era. This is the Trump era," US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday in Nogales, AZ. (Source: KOLD News 13)
NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced several changes to the country's handling of immigration enforcement and border security.

Sessions spoke to a crowd of reporters and federal agents Tuesday morning, April 11, after a tour of the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, AZ.

The nation's top law enforcement official outlined a series of changes that he said mark the start of a new era to rid American cities and the border of what he described as "filth" brought on by drug cartels and criminal organizations.

Sessions credited President Trump for a steep drop-off of border apprehensions this year, but said there is still a need for a border wall to be built and expanded. He said it would serve as a force multiplier and help prevent people recently deported from crossing back into the United States.

"I think there's no doubt that the barrier, the wall, will have a great and positive impact," Sessions said. "It will continue our ability to follow through on a commitment to end the lawlessness"

Sessions said the administration will bring more felony prosecutions against immigrants entering the country illegally. Anyone caught re-entering the United States illegally could be hit with felony charges. The same goes for anyone charged with assaulting an agent.

"This is a new era. This is the Trump era," he said. "The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over."

Sessions has been expanding the Justice Department's role in the anti-immigration agenda of the Trump administration. But his speech Tuesday during his first visit to the border offered the most comprehensive look yet at his plans for federal prosecutions of those in the country illegally.

Critics blasted the initiatives announced by Sessions as fear-mongering and anti-immigrant rhetoric not rooted in facts.

Sandy Ochoa, Tucson coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, was one of a few protestors outside of the CBP facility. She said Sessions' message made it sound like everyone entering the U.S. from Mexico is doing so illegally.

She said it's stirred up fears for those who already have the proper paperwork to be here.

"If you are scared, you're not going to make a change," she said. "You're not going to do anything, you're just going to do exactly what they want you to do."

The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, which comprises most of Arizona, saw about 65,000 arrests of immigrants last fiscal year, roughly half the number agents made in 2012, according to Border Patrol data. Marijuana seizures have also dropped by about 28 percent from 1 million pounds in 2012 to 728,000 last year.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said he wasn't invited to Tuesday's tour and would have gladly shared his thoughts on border security and the needs of local law enforcement.

He said his deputies are glad to work with the federal government but working as immigration officers is not an option.

"We want to partner with the federal government as we can, but not to do immigration enforcement," Estrada said. "We don't have the authority, obviously, and we don't have the resources for it. We don't want to do that."

Following the border tour, Sessions was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at an International Association of Chiefs of Police conference outside Phoenix. He'll also speak with service members at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.

Much of what Sessions outlined in his far-ranging speech is also addressed in the Justice Department's proposed budget. Even as it plans to cut the Justice Department's budget by more than $1 billion, the Trump administration wants hundreds of millions of dollars to hire 60 federal prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals to focus on border cases.

It also wants to boost immigration courts by $80 million to pay for 75 additional teams of judges. That would speed up removal proceedings for people in the United States illegally and address a backlog of more than 540,000 pending cases. The proposal also calls for adding $1.5 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement's budget to find, detain and deport immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, along with more than $300 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 immigration agents.

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