Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an immigration memorandum this past Tuesday, criminalizing charges that were previously only prosecuted by immigration courts. Under the new memo, a number of charges that would normally go through immigration court will now be prosecuted as felonies.
New Immigration Memorandum
“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned,” Sessions said in remarks prepared for delivery. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”
During a speech delivered this Tuesday at Nogales, Arizona, Sessions vowed a dramatic crackdown on illegal immigration. The memorandum issued by Sessions Tuesday calls for federal attorneys to consider:
- felony charges when applicable for immigrants who try to enter the U.S. illegally on multiple occasions
- felony charges for cases of fraudulent marriages to obtain legal immigration status
- prosecution of anyone who harbors undocumented immigrants, with a priority given to violent cases or those that involve transporting or shielding three or more undocumented immigrants
Justice Department To Make Immigration Enforcement A Priority
To be clear, these were already crimes prosecuted in the United States. President Trump had previously mandated these immigration charges in his January 25 executive order.
However, the novelty of these orders is significant in that it extends that mandate to criminal courts, meaning more severe charges for undocumented immigrants.
Under Trump's order, if an undocumented person returns to the United States after being deported, they would be a priority for immigration courts. Now, with Sessions' memo, that individual falls under the jurisdiction of the US Marshall and their cases will be dealt with in criminal courts.
That means that the penalties will be more severe than the current ones, which are already severe. Advocates fear that after completing the criminal process under these new orders, many immigrants will never again be eligible to legally stay in the United States