The new Attorney General visited a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona this week to announce new federal spending on immigration and border enforcement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, to urge federal prosecutors to be more aggressive in charging undocumented immigrants with felonies, including identity theft and document fraud.
“This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over,” he added.
Sessions had already released a three-page memo that outlined his approach to dealing with undocumented immigration. The memo asked U.S. Attorneys in border states to increase prosecutions in immigration cases by appointing border security coordinators to oversee investigations.
The Trump Administration has also asked for increased funding in next fiscal year’s budget to hire 60 new federal prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshalls to focus on undocumented immigration cases.
Additionally, Trump has asked for $1.5 billion in new funding for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) budget to find, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants, and $300 million more to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 federal immigration agents.
Although Attorney General Sessions claimed that undocumented immigration has decreased because of President Trump’s tougher stance, the numbers have been decreasing for years under President Obama.
In the Tucson, Arizona sector, which covers more of Arizona’s border with Mexico, undocumented immigration arrests last year were about half of what they were in 2012. Similarly, marijuana drug seizers along the border dropped from 1 million pounds to 728,000, a drop of 18 percent during the same four-year period.
Sessions also expressed his support for President Trump’s long-promised “wall” along the border, saying he believes it will be built, but also back-peddled on Trump’s promise to block the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I believe he will get funding for the wall. I can’t imagine Congress to deny him that,” Sessions said during an interview with Fox News this week. “It doesn’t have to be every foot of the entire 1,700-mile border. But a wall, a barrier, multiplies the ability of our border patrol and customs officers to be effective, so, this is the way to go.”
Sessions used controversial language similar to what Trump used during the campaign, claiming undocumented immigrants and Mexican drug cartels are turning American cities in “war zones” by raping and killing innocent people, claims not supported by crime statistics.
“It is here, on this sliver of land, where we take our stand against this filth,” Sessions said during his visit to Nogales.
The Attorney General’s comments reminded many of Donald Trump’s language used when he first launched his presidential campaign in 2015. Trump claimed “the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government.”
In June 2015, Trump made comments about what he viewed as the unfair relationship between the US and Mexico.
“They are not our friend, believe me,” Trump said. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump has also bashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, as unfair. The 1993 agreement between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, was passed during George H.W. Bush’s time as President, but signed into law by Bill Clinton. Trump has pledged to renegotiate NAFTA or remove the U.S. from it. So far, President Trump has not dealt with NAFTA.