Wednesday 24/07/2019 - 03:40 am

Trump’s Justice Department to end ‘catch and release’ immigration policy

2017.04.11 09:33

In what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is heralding “a new era,” the Justice Department is prioritizing criminal prosecution of illegal immigrants and smugglers to support the Trump’ administration’s immigration enforcement plan — directing prosecutors to bring felony charges against those caught in the U.S. after a prior deportation.

The new enforcement priorities will end the “catch and release practices” of the Obama administration and expand the department’s role in the Trump administration’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration, Mr. Sessions said Tuesday during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

The guidance issued by Mr. Sessions orders federal prosecutors to prioritize criminal charges against illegal immigrants with a history of prior removals or other criminal convictions as well as charges against those who aid in the smuggling of illegal immigrants into the United States. As part of the broader plan to reduce back logs in the immigration courts and to speed up the deportation process, the attorney general said the DOJ will hire 50 more immigration judges this year, and 75 next year.

“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over,” Mr. Sessions said in prepared remarks.

Illegal entry into the United States can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. But the DOJ’s new guidelines indicate that prosecutors will seek felony charges in cases in which a person has a documented history of illegal entry into the U.S. For example, felony charges will be sought against someone who has two or more misdemeanor illegal entry convictions or at least one illegal entry conviction and another aggravating factor such as a felony criminal history, gang affiliation, or prior removals from the U.S.

Citing violence associated with drug cartels and the MS-13 criminal gang, Mr. Sessions said Tuesday that the measures are meant to reduce the danger posed by those who entry the United States illegally and commit crimes.

“Under the President’s leadership and through his executive orders, 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,” the attorney general said in prepared remarks.

Immigration offenses make up more than half of all arrests made by federal law enforcement, according to recently released DOJ data. In 2014, federal law enforcement agencies made 81,881 immigration arrests. That same year, 79,340 cases referred to federal prosecutors had an immigration related offense as the lead charge in the case.

Other cases to be prioritized for prosecution under Mr. Sessions Justice Department are:

- Identity theft or visa or document fraud committed by illegal immigrants.

- Improper entry by an illegal immigrant through sham marriages.

- Assault or or resistance of law enforcement officers engaged in immigration duties.

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