The Trump administration officials are making it clear yet again that they will be taking a strict stance against illegal immigration.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed immigration judges to start prosecuting deportation cases directly instead of putting them on a wait-list for administrative closure, meaning they were never actually dealt with.
During the Obama-era, judges would often postpone the cases involving low-priority illegal immigrants on this permanent wait-list to avoid their deportation.
There are hundreds of thousands of examples of how this system only fueled the illegal immigration problem.
“A 17-year-old named Reynaldo Castro-Tum was nabbed crossing the border illegally in 2014. He was sent to live with his brother-in-law while he awaited deportation.Mr. Castro-Tum was supposed to come back for his hearing but ignored all five summonses sent from the court to his brother-in-law’s address. Rather than order him deported in absentia, the immigration judge granted an administrative closure, essentially giving the now-adult illegal immigrant a tentative pass,” writes The Washington Times. “It was one of more than 215,000 cases shunted onto the administrative closure list from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2017, sending the total off-calendar backlog to more than 350,000 cases. When combined with some 690,000 other pending cases, the immigration court has more than 1 million cases awaiting rulings.”
However, Sessions has ruled that the new protocol will be for the judges to make a swift decision and that the Department of Homeland Security will be “referring 100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution. We need legality and integrity in our immigration system.”
“No attorney general has delegated such broad authority, and legal or policy arguments do not justify it. I, therefore, hold that immigration judges and the Board [of Immigration Appeals] lack this authority except where a previous regulation or settlement agreement has expressly conferred it,” said Sessions.
Last month, Sessions announced that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will have a “zero tolerance” policy against the illegal immigration. He also said he would be sending 35 more prosecutors and 18 immigration judges to handle immigration cases at the southwest border.
“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” said Sessions. “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
Immigrant advocates are claiming Sessions’ new policy is heartless and only detours asylum seekers.
“We don’t think the U.S. should be prosecuting asylum seekers, attempting to deter asylum seekers,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We certainly don’t think they should be prosecuting families with little children so the end result is these little children are sent off by themselves.”
But, supporters of stricter immigration policies argue that illegal aliens that haven’t entered the country lawfully need to be held accountable.
“Attorney General Sessions is doing what should have been done long ago, which is trying to ensure that illegal aliens are actually found deportable, then removed from the United States, rather than leaving them here in limbo, still illegal but living under color of law,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA.
“This is not about family separation,” said a DHS official, under anonymity to CNBC. “This is all about referring people for prosecution who break our nation’s immigration laws.”
Sessions stressed that this is about protecting the legal U.S. citizens.
“This department, under President Trump’s leadership, is enforcing the law without exception,” said Sessions. “We will finally secure this border so that we can get the American people the safety and peace of mind that they deserve.”