U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday called on federal prosecutors in Georgia and across the nation to take aim at illegal immigration.
In a three-page memo he sent the nation’s U.S. attorneys, Sessions told them to prioritize prosecuting people caught smuggling others into the U.S.; illegally reentering the country after being deported; committing identify theft and document fraud; and assaulting immigration enforcement officers.
Sessions’ directive is the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration. In January, President Donald Trump signed a pair of sweeping executive orders for building a new wall on the Southwest border, hiring 15,000 additional immigration enforcement and Border Patrol officials and stripping federal funding from municipalities that don’t fully cooperate with deportation officers.
An estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Of those, 250,000 were in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell area.
“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era,” Sessions told U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials during a visit to the southwest border in Arizona Tuesday. “This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia declined to comment about how his office would implement Sessions’ mandate.
A Washington-based immigrant advocacy group said Sessions’ directive would “sow fear and chaos.”
“Criminalizing immigration violations among individuals who are peaceably living in and contributing to our communities only will sow fear and chaos,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Immigration enforcement should prioritize violent criminals and traffickers. Yet this new policy does just the opposite by requiring federal prosecutors to prioritize immigration violations rather than violent criminals and threats to community safety.”