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Jeff Sessions Outlines New Immigration Policy in Department-Wide Memo

In a memo released on Tuesday, the attorney general called for an increase in the penalties for undocumented immigrants who attempt to re-enter the U.S.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

In conjunction with a fiery speech delivered at the United States-Mexico border by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) circulated another sweeping memo to its U.S. attorneys general that outlines new anti-immigration policies. The new memo calls for an increase in penalties for illegal re-entry to the U.S. and directs officials to charge undocumented immigrants with higher-penalty crimes.

The DOJ also announced it will hire 50 immigration judges by the end of 2017, along with an additional 75 judges by the end of next year — for context, there are only about 270 immigration judges currently — reflecting what the memo calls “the dire need” to reduce the country’s backlog of about 508,000 immigration cases.

In addition, the memo implements a new requirement that, by April 18th, every border district must have a designated border security coordinator, who will oversee “the investigation and prosecution of the offenses listed above” and have license to work with any law enforcement partners “deemed necessary” — that is, not including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Customs and Border Protection officers — to coordinate enforcement initiatives and “facilitate information sharing.”

Speaking from the Arizona-Mexico border, Sessions added that, “starting today,” undocumented immigrants who attempt to re-enter the country after being deported will face felony charges if “certain aggravating circumstances are present.” Additionally, he said, prosecutors are now directed to charge “criminal aliens” with document fraud and aggravated identity theft, the latter of which carries a mandatory two-year sentence.

“When we talk about [the] cartels, what do we mean?” Sessions said. “We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into war zones, that rape and kill innocent citizens, and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. Depravity and violence are their calling cards … it is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”