April 11 (UPI) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, appearing in Arizona for a tour Tuesday of the U.S.-Mexico border crossing, described a "Trump era" of increased enforcement of immigration laws aimed at reducing criminal activity.
"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," Sessions said to immigration officials in Nogales, Ariz.
Sessions toured rough terrain along the international border in Nogales, about roughly 70 miles south of Tucson.
After the tour, he spoke about violent cartel and gang members those who smuggle people illegally into the United States,
"We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens," Sessions said in prepared remarks. "It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand."
Prosecutors are instructed to bring felony charges, including aggravated identity theft, and prison against those who had entered the United States illegally several times.
"As you know too well, this is a booming business down here. No more," Sessions said. "We are going to shut down and jail those who have been profiting off this lawlessness -- people smuggling gang members across the border, helping convicted criminals re-enter this country and preying on those who don't know how dangerous the journey can be."
Over the next two years, the Department of Justice plans to add 125 new immigration judges to deal with the backup of cases in the country's immigration courts. Already, 25 immigration judges are in detention centers along the border.
"This is no accident," he said. "This is what happens when you have a president who understands the threat, who is not afraid to publicly identify the threat and stand up to it, and who makes clear to law enforcement that the leadership of their country finally has their back."
Paul K. Charlton, the U.S. attorney for Arizona from 2001-07, said the U.S. district court system would be overburdened.
"No one understands better than I do that prosecutions have a deterrent effect, but it's not a solution. Prosecution and incarceration do not adequately address the real need, which is a reform of the immigration laws," Charlton told The Washington Post.
In fiscal year 2015, immigration cases accounted for 29.3 percent of the 71,184 federal criminal federal cases, which was second behind drug prosecutions at 31.8 percent, according to data from United States Sentencing Commission.
Illegal border crossings have declined since Donald Trump became president -- dropping 40 percent from January to February and 72 percent in March. But it follows a trend of decreased crossings over the years.
In a three-page memo obtained by The Washington Post, Sessions also directed federal prosecutors to make the immigration cases a higher priority.
Advocates and legal analysts said they are concerned about the Justice Department's use of resources.
"Which prosecutors and agents does he want to divert from the growing threats like terrorism, cyber crime, the opioid and heroin trade, organized crime, and cartel activity?" said Jenny Durkan, who served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington from 2009-14 to The Washington Post. "The 'surge' philosophy always requires taking agents, money and prosecutors from other priorities. In fact, the cost of satisfying Washington will reduce the ability of every U.S. attorney to address the greatest threats in their communities."
On March 27, Sessions said state and local governments with "sanctuary city" status will lose federal grants from the Justice Department. "Sanctuary cities" refuse to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to enforce immigration laws, including allowing ICE to take custody of the illegal immigrants for possible deportation. Under federal law, they are required to notify ICE when an illegal immigrant is in custody.
An earlier version of this story contained a quote from Sessions referring to "filth." The quote was in Session's prepared remarks, but he did not say it in the live speech.