Immigration cases taking up half of all federal prosecutions somehow not enough for Sessions

April 11, 2017

The attorney general directs prosecutors further target immigrants in the courts along with others who are resisting Trump’s deportation force

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions today instructed federal prosecutors to put even more Justice Department resources into immigration prosecutions in their districts. A memo released today along with remarks by Attorney General Sessions in Nogales, Arizona, instructs prosecutors to prioritize immigration crimes including unauthorized entry and re-entry into the United States, harboring unauthorized immigrants, and impeding arrest of undocumented migrants.

The memo calls for each U.S. Attorney’s district — including those far from the border — to appoint a “Border Security Coordinator” to coordinate and report on immigration prosecutions.   

Today’s announcement builds on the historically high rates of criminal prosecutions of migrants. According to Indefensible: a Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border, a book released by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies last year, criminal prosecution of migrants for just two crimes — unauthorized entry and re-entry — have already had profound impacts on the federal courts and federal prisons over the last decade. In 2016, 52 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions involved immigration-related offenses, an increase from 2015, when improper entry and re-entry prosecutions accounted for 49 percent of all prosecutions.

“This action takes Trump’s fear-mongering and puts it into concrete policy that criminalizes an entire group of people,” said Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership. “The only winners are the private prison corporations that stand to gain from an even faster growth in mass incarceration of immigrants.”   

The memo also calls for the criminal prosecution of people “assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers” in immigration proceedings.  Dozens of congregations and community organizations across the country in communities as diverse as Philadelphia, College Station, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas, have declared themselves willing to risk arrest in resistance to the deportation of their neighbors.  

“The administration is clearly trying to intimidate this growing movement that has declared its resistance to Trump’s deportation force,” said Alejandro Caceres, organizer at Grassroots Leadership.  “We will not be intimidated.”

Since 2005, nearly three quarters of a million people, have been prosecuted in our federal courts for the crime of improper migration: 412,240 for improper entry and 317,916 for re-entry.

This escalating system of migrant prosecutions is making a significant and growing contribution to mass incarceration, and to overcrowding in our federal prison system. Almost all of them were incarcerated in federal private prisons. Earlier this year, Sessions also reversed a previous decision by the Justice Department to phase out the use of private prisons, a move that some senators said “lends the appearance of rewarding campaign donors.”

“It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth. This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks.

Attorney General Jeff Session was confirmed in February despite serious concerns over allegations he is a racist.  

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.

Contact: 

Cristina Parker, cparker@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111