Sessions vows to prosecute all illegal border crossers and separate children from their parents

From the Washington Post

‘It is a national matter:’ Sessions vows to prosecute all illegal border crossers

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on May 7, that the Justice Dept. will begin prosecuting every person who illegally crosses the Southwest border. (The Washington Post)

by Sari Horwitz and Maria Sacchetti May 7

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that the Justice Department will begin prosecuting every person who illegally crosses into the United States along the Southwest border, a hard-line policy shift focusing in particular on migrants traveling with children.

In separate speeches — one in Scottsdale, Ariz., the other in San Diego — Sessions said the Department of Homeland Security will begin referring such cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. Federal prosecutors will “take on as many of those cases as humanly possible until we get to 100 percent,” he said.

“If you cross the border unlawfully . . . then we will prosecute you,” Sessions said. “If you smuggle an illegal alien across the border, then we’ll prosecute you. . . . If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”

[Top Homeland Security officials urge criminal prosecution of parents who cross border with children]

DHS officials say they have seen a significant increase in illegal border crossings over the past year, including a rise in the number of families and unaccompanied children. In the past month, Border Patrol officers say they have encountered more than 50,000 immigrants trying to enter the United States. From April 2017 to April 2018, the number of apprehensions and “inadmissible” border crossings tripled, according to DHS.

Advocates for migrants have said most are fleeing violence in Central America and should be treated as asylum seekers, not criminals. The American Civil Liberties Union has already filed a federal lawsuit in California over past separations.

A 4-year-old boy weeps in the arms of a family member after he and others were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents upon crossing illegally near McAllen, Tex., on May 2. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Sessions indicated that while he has “no doubt” people illegally crossing the border are fleeing danger or despair, “We cannot take everyone on this planet who is in a difficult situation.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who has battled the Trump administration in court, signaled that he was following the issue closely.

“As a father, the last thing I would do is separate fathers and mothers from their children and I would hope the federal government thinks twice about doing this,” Becerra said. “There are constitutional protections we can look to.”

In San Diego, Sessions was interrupted by a heckler with a megaphone.

“We don’t want you in our state,” the man yelled. “Are you going to be separating families? Is that why you’re here? Why are you doing this? Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? Why do you work for this administration?”

Senior immigration and border officials called for the increased prosecutions last month in a confidential memo to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. They said filing criminal charges against migrants, including parents traveling with children, would be the “most effective” way to tamp down on illegal border crossings.

The “zero-tolerance” measure announced Monday could split up thousands of families because children are not allowed in criminal jails. Until now, most families apprehended crossing the border illegally have been released to await civil deportation hearings.

The Trump administration piloted this approach in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico, between July and November 2017, and said the number of families attempting to cross illegally plunged by 64 percent.

The New York Times reported last month that hundreds of children have been taken from their parents at the border since October.

Nielsen told lawmakers in April that DHS aims to keep families together “as long as operationally possible.” She said families are separated to “protect the children” in case the adults traveling with them are not really their parents.

Sessions, who as attorney general has been especially aggressive on immigration, said that to carry out the new enforcement policies, he was sending 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and 18 immigration judges to the border to handle asylum claims. Those moves were announced last week.

Criminal prosecutions at the border have soared over the past two decades, from fewer than 10,000 cases in 1996 to more than 90,000 at their peak in 2013 under former president Barack Obama, according to TRAC, a Syracuse University organization that tracks criminal immigration prosecutions. Last fiscal year, the number of immigration prosecutions declined 14 percent, to nearly 60,000.

The most common criminal charge is “improper entry by alien” — or illegal entry. First-time offenders usually face a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison or fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned for up to two years and fined, or charged with the more serious offense of “illegal reentry.”

After President Trump called last month for renewed efforts to reduce illegal border crossings, Sessions ordered U.S. attorneys on the border to prosecute migrants “to the extent practicable.” His remarks Monday appeared to signal that federal prosecutors will make this a higher priority.

“Eleven million people are already here illegally,” Sessions said in his speech. “That’s more than the population of the state of Georgia. . . . We’re not going to stand for this. We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness.”

Illegal Immigration Does Not Increase Violent Crime, 4 Studies Show

From NPR

The Trump administration regularly asserts that undocumented immigrants are predatory and threaten public safety. Immigrant advocates say that talk demonizes an entire class of people.

Now, four academic studies show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems. In the slew of research, motivated by Trump’s rhetoric, social scientists set out to answer this question: Are undocumented immigrants more likely to break the law?

Michael Light, a criminologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, looked at whether the soaring increase in illegal immigration over the last three decades caused a commensurate jump in violent crimes: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

“Increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period,” Light said in a phone interview.

Those findings are published in the current edition of the peer-reviewed journal Criminology.

In a separate study, these same researchers previously looked at nonviolent crime. They found that the dramatic influx of undocumented immigrants, similarly, did not drive up rates of drug and alcohol arrests or the number of drug overdoses and DUI deaths.

“We found no evidence that undocumented immigration increases the prevalence of any of those outcomes,” Light said.

A third study, by the libertarian Cato Institute, recently looked at criminality among undocumented immigrants just in Texas. The state records the immigration status of arrestees, creating a gold mine for criminologists.

Cato found that in 2015, criminal conviction and arrest rates in Texas for undocumented immigrants were lower than those of native-born Americans for murder, sexual assault and larceny.

Finally, a research paper appearing in the current edition of the U.K. journal Migration Letters shows that youthful undocumented immigrants engage in less crime than do legal immigrants or U.S.-born peers.

All of this comes as no surprise to Art Acevedo, the police chief in Houston, which has one of largest undocumented populations in the nation. The chief has been publicly critical of the immigration crackdown.

“There’s no wave of crime being committed by the immigrant community,” Acevedo said. “As a matter of fact, a lot of the violent crime that we’re dealing with is being committed by people that are born and raised right here in the United States.”

For decades, social science focused on the extent of crime committed by legal immigrants. These new studies are important because they’re among the first to explore the link between crime and illegal immigration.

The research proves what Acevedo and others suspected.

“Having worked around this community my entire professional career, which is about 32 years, I know that the vast majority of them that I’ve encountered are hard-working. They’re here to earn an honest living,” Acevedo said.

But the new research may not move the needle in the immigration debate. Texas Republicans, for instance, have potent opinions about undocumented immigrants.

“I have no quarrel with anybody of any ethnicity, but I don’t like criminals. And I think that not having people be citizens leads to criminality,” former La Grange, Texas, City Councilman Arnold Romberg says. He’s sitting on the courthouse square in Fayette County, where voters went for Trump by a 4-to-1 margin.

Ed Dykes, a local electrical engineer, says a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant is one too many.

“It’s actually immaterial whether they commit more crimes or not because they commit additional crimes,” Dykes says. “They are crimes that would not be committed. There are American citizens who’d be alive today if [unauthorized immigrants] were not in this country.”

A recent poll showed that 7 out of 10 GOP voters in Texas support the proposition that all undocumented immigrants should be deported immediately regardless of whether they have committed a crime there.

Kids in Deportation Proceedings – A Travesty of Justice

In the US no one, not even children, are provided with a representative in immigration court. They must get their own accredited representative or attorney to represent them. Almost half the minors in deportation proceedings don’t have a representative.

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