On Friday, Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, once again ramped up calls for criminally prosecuting immigrants who cross into the United States illegally. His statement just added to the barrage of statements that were made by the administration of President Donald Trump on immigration this week. Sessions pointed to the rise in border crossings once again as they had now reached levels that had once existed in the tenure of President Barrack Obama. He stated that he was issuing orders for the US attorney offices near the Southwest border for prioritizing cases against first-time border crossers.
Once a charge for illegal entry and deportation has been made against border crossers, a felony charge can be imposed on them if they are caught crossing again illegally and this includes significant jail time. A memorandum was signed by Trump on Friday, which brings about the end of a policy known as ‘catch and release’. Under this policy, illegal immigrants are not detailed while they are waiting for a court hearing regarding their status. Putting an end to this policy was one of the major promises that Trump had made to his supporters during the election campaign in 2016.
However, the problem is that immigration authorities have had to deal with a shortage of space for housing those who have been detained. There were several measures mentioned in the memo, Trump instructed the departments of Homeland Security and Defense to make a list of military facilities that could be used for detaining illegal immigrants. Trump had also made a pledge earlier this week of deploying the National Guard to help with border operations because he hasn’t been able to obtain the funding needed for fulfilling a central promise of his campaign; to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
A memo was signed by Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, on Friday. It authorized the deployment of about 4,000 National Guard troops. According to the memo, the troops will not interact with the migrants or perform any law enforcement activities. Next week, about 150 troops of the National Guard will be deployed to the border from Arizona. The Texas National Guard announced that within the next three days, they would be sending about 250 troops to the border. A number of times, the US has also sent the military to the border over the years. Sessions instructed the US attorney offices in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California to prosecute all cases referring to criminal entry.
This statute is known as 1325. In April 2017, Sessions had asked the prosecutors to enhance their focus on charging first-time offenders criminally and also those who have entered multiple times. Some defense attorneys, federal prosecutors and judges have said that charging such a high number of border crossers will only drain the court’s resources. Those who support Session’s stance have stated that the best way to deter repeat crossers is through criminal penalties, but those against it have said that this prevents legitimate asylum seekers to file claims properly.