By Ana Gomez Salcido
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new zero tolerance policy for illegal border crossings, during a visit to San Diego, on Monday, May 7.
“Today we are here to send a message to the world: we are not going to let this country be overwhelmed. People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border. We need legality and integrity in the immigration system,” Sessions said during a press conference at the Border Field State Park, next to the border with Tijuana.
According to Sessions, the Department of Homeland Security will now refer 100 percent of illegal Southwest border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
Session’s visit comes a week after hundreds of immigrants, part of an annual Immigrant Caravan, arrived at the U.S. border in Tijuana to seek asylum in the United States.
According to a Customs and Border Protection statement, several groups of the Immigrant Caravan allegedly did not follow the asylum protocol and crossed the border without documents and did not enter the country through the ports of entry.
“I have put in place a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” Sessions said.
“If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. 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 make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony. If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too. You’re going to jail. So if you’re going to come to this country, come here legally. Don’t come here illegally.”
As part of the new enforcement policies, 35 prosecutors were sent to the Southwest and 18 immigration judges were moved to the border. These are supervisory judges that do not 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.
“These actions are necessary. And they are made even more necessary by the massive increases in illegal crossings in recent months,” Sessions said. “This February saw 55 percent more border apprehensions than last February. This March saw triple the number from last March. April saw triple the number last April. The trends are clear: this must end.”
A protester that had a megaphone briefly interrupted the U.S. Attorney General’s speech.
“You are evil for what you do,” said the protester, later identified as William Johnson. “You are evil.”
Johnson said he hear Sessions was visiting San Diego to announce a new immigration policy, and he wanted to say to the U.S. Attorney General that he wasn’t welcomed at this border region.
The protester was led away from the press conference area by security, but he was able to stay throughout the whole conference a few meters away.
This was the second time that Sessions visits San Diego during his seat in the President Donald Trump Administration. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan came along in this trip.