On Tuesday, April 11th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a shift in the Department of Justice’s policy, directing the 94 U.S. Attorney offices to focus their resources on prosecuting immigrants who crossed the border without inspection. These shifts in policy are more extreme and will turn misdemeanors into felonies with longer and harsher sentences for those found guilty. This shifts resources away from prosecuting immigrants who have committed serious crimes to those who are coming into the country without documentation, often to reunite with their family or flee violent and unsafe conditions.
In a press release posted by the Department of Justice, Sessions instructed that these offices also need to consider prosecuting the following “offenses”:
- “The transportation or harboring of aliens. As you know too well, this is a booming business down here. No more. We are going to shut down and jail those who have been profiting off this lawlessness — people smuggling gang members across the border, helping convicted criminals re-enter this country and preying on those who don’t know how dangerous the journey can be.”
- “Further, where an alien has unlawfully entered the country, which is a misdemeanor, that alien will now be charged with a felony if they unlawfully enter or attempt enter a second time and certain aggravating circumstances are present.”
- “Also, aliens that illegally re-enter the country after prior removal will be referred for felony prosecution — and a priority will be given to such offenses, especially where indicators of gang affiliation, a risk to public safety or criminal history are present.”
- “Fourth: where possible, prosecutors are directed to charge criminal aliens with document fraud and aggravated identity theft — the latter carrying a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.”
- “Finally, and perhaps most importantly: I have directed that all 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices make the prosecution of assault on a federal law enforcement officer — that’s all of you — a top priority. If someone dares to assault one of our folks in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it.”
“The things they want us to do are so horrifying—they want to do harboring cases of three or more people,” a federal prosecutor, who wish to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast. “So if you’re illegal and you bring your family over, then you’re harboring your kid and your wife, and you can go to jail.”
These policies are unprecedented and designed to act as a threat not only to undocumented immigrants but to immigrants who have lawful status and U.S. citizens who look to protect them. This is a mass deportation strategy.