Reaffirming his "zero tolerance" stance, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will criminally prosecute immigrants who illegally cross the border. He also stated that he will prosecute parents for human smuggling if they try to enter the country illegally with children, separating them from their children at the time of prosecution.
In a speech in Arizona, he said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DOJ will join forces to prosecute as many cases as "humanly possible," and to do so, he has sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border.
The initiative announced yesterday follows the course of the new immigration rules that the Government communicated in February 2017, whose purpose is to increase detention and speed up the deportation of undocumented persons in the country.
The measures announced by Attorney General Sessions will not prevent immigrants from legally applying for asylum at a border checkpoint or port.
In his speech, Sessions stated that the law will be enforced. to stop the "stampede" of undocumented immigrants into the country.
Part of Sessions' speech, translated into Spanish:
"Last month, I implemented a "zero tolerance" policy for illegal entries at our Southwest border referred by the Department of Homeland Security.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is partnering with us and will begin a new initiative that will result in referring 100% of illegal border crossings in the Southwest to the Department of Justice for prosecution. And the Department of Justice will take as many cases as humanly possible until we get to 100%.
If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you. It's as simple as that.
If you traffic illegal aliens along our border, then we will prosecute you.
If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and separate you from that child, as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children across our border.
If you make false statements to an immigration officer or commit fraud in our system to obtain an immigration benefit, that is a felony. We will put you in jail.
If you help others to do so, it is also a felony.
To carry out and enforce these important new policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and transferred 18 immigration judges to the border. These are supervisory judges who currently have no pending cases and will be able to work full time to mobilize these cases. That will be a 50% increase in the number of immigration judges handling asylum claims.
Everything we do at the Department of Justice is dedicated to reducing crime in the United States."
Criminal penalties for violating immigration law
The government has the right and ability to criminally prosecute people who violate immigration law. This is not something new. It is a right granted by the U.S. Congress that has existed for many years.
Immigration law provides that persons who violate immigration laws may be criminally prosecuted, including those who:
(1) enter or attempt to enter the U.S. at any time or place other than a designated time or place by immigration officials.
(2) evade examination or inspection by immigration officials.
(3) attempt to enter or obtain entry into the United States by making false representations, lying or knowingly concealing any material fact.
(4) motivate or assist foreign nationals to enter and live illegally to the United States.
(5) re-enter or attempt to re-enter illegally to the United States.
It is never recommended that foreigners enter the country illegally, especially if the person has legal ways to do so.
Before trying to make the crossing to the United States, risk your life along the way, pay thousands of dollars to coyotes or smugglers who may scam, abandon or kill you, and risk being caught at the border and deported, consult with a licensed U.S. immigration attorney to see if you have options to enter the country legally.
Aliens who are currently accused of criminally violating immigration laws should hire a criminal defense attorney to defend them in federal court. Also, they should not plead guilty to any crime until they have had the advice of a U.S. immigration attorney.