Sessions: '100 percent' who enter U.S. illegally will be prosecuted

By Daniel Uria  |  Updated May 7, 2018 at 5:11 PM
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May 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised Monday that "100 percent" of immigrants who enter the United States unlawfully at southwestern borders will be prosecuted.

Speaking at the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sessions said the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will work together to accept as many cases as possible until 100 percent have been prosecuted.

"If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It's that simple," he said.

Sessions said the departments will also prosecute those who make false statements or fraudulently obtain immigration benefits, as well as accomplices. He also threatened to separate children from their parents if they're smuggled over the border.

"If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border," the attorney general said.

During another speech in San Diego, Calif., Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan said there were no new policies in place to separate children from families while crossing the border.

Homan clarified that ICE separates adults from children if they are unable to determine whether the adult is a parent and whenever a parent is being prosecuted for a crime.

"Every law enforcement agency in this country separates a parent from a child when they are prosecuted for a crime," he said.

Last week, Sessions sent 35 assistant U.S. attorneys and 18 immigration judges to five districts in states that share a border with Mexico.

"These are supervisory judges that don't have existing caseloads and will be able to function full time on moving these cases. That will be about a 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges who will be handling the asylum claims," Sessions told the conference Monday.

While in San Diego, Sessions referenced the so-called caravan of hundreds of Central American migrants who made their way to the southwestern border to seek asylum in the United States.

"Today we're here to send a message to the world that we're not going to let the country be overwhelmed people are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border," he said. "We need legality and integrity in our immigration systems."

He also called the caravan "a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system" and pledged to send more immigration judges to the border if necessary.

The speech was interrupted by a protester carrying a megaphone who shouted criticisms of the immigration policies and called on Sessions to leave the state.

"You are an evil, evil, evil man," the protester said.

Sessions added his department is also working to find ways to get the federal government access to thousands of encrypted electronic devices, like smartphones, for evidence in criminal investigations.

He said the FBI was unable to access content on more than 7,700 devices connected to potential threats, despite having the legal authority to do so.

"This is a large number, but it is small compared to the number that your agencies are unable to access because of encryption," he said.

As part of its effort to combat violent crime, homicides, opioid prescriptions and overdose deaths, Sessions said President Donald Trump's administration will invest more than $100 million in state and local crime labs.

The administration will also help pay to identify previously un-submitted sexual assault "kits," so they can be tested and used to pursue new investigative leads.

"We want to be a force-multiplier for you," Sessions said. "We can help you -- because we can reach defendants across state lines, across national borders, and even across oceans."

Sessions also said Trump's promised border wall is much needed. The announcements Monday are part of the administration's longstanding efforts to crack down on illegal migration across the southern U.S. border.

Sessions was scheduled to address the new efforts later Monday at an event in San Diego.

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