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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Addresses Immigration during Las Cruces Visit

Michael Hernandez

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ stop in Las Cruces comes after President Trump’s decision to deploy up to 4,000 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexican border. Sessions said the rate of illegal border crossings this year compared to 2017 is cause for concern.

“We saw a steep drop after President Trump’s inauguration… but we’re seeing increasing flows and worry that we might see more this summer. So, we’re going to step up our efforts to achieve zero tolerance and zero releases and 100 percent prosecution wherever possible,” Sessions said.

More than 37,000 people were apprehended crossing the border in March according to 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. That’s three times as many the same month last year.

"Our goal ultimately is not arrest, see how many we can arrest. But our goal is to deter people from attempting to come illegally. That's what we have to be seeking to do. That's what we can do," Sessions said.

Sessions addressed members of the Texas and Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalitions, which represent 31 counties along the border states. Executive Director Clint McDonald said Sessions’ remarks to provide more support for law enforcement were refreshing.

“I speak for all 31 sheriffs from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California and these sheriffs every day have a mission that they have to accomplish on our border, and when the 911 phone rings on the border county, it doesn’t go to the Border Patrol, it doesn’t go the National Guard, it goes to that sheriff’s desk and that sheriff has to act,” McDonald said. “So, they need that help, they need that assistance. They need assistance from the federal government to help secure our nation.”

Organizers from five New Mexico community groups protested outside the Ramada hotel where Sessions spoke. NM CAFé organizer Johana Bencomo said President Trump’s orders to send troops to the border is vastly different than when Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush did the same.

“President Trump has ran from day one on an anti-immigrant, white supremacist, nationalist agenda against particularly immigrants of color,” Bencomo said. “That is why this is more problematic and the last two times there was a really clear goal, there was an end, there was a beginning and an end and a clear goal.”

Bencomo said the protest’s message isn’t just directed toward Sessions or Trump.

“It’s towards those elected officials, people who were elected to represent us in our very own communities, that collaboration with ICE or Border Patrol to detain, deport and separate our families is unacceptable and we will push a hard resistance against it and we need Sheriff Kiki Vigil, especially because he is our sheriff to do better and to push back against the lies and the hatred that this administration is pushing against our people and our communities,” Bencomo said.

Sessions said more than 100 immigration judges will be sent to border areas to help process the backlog of immigration court cases. He did not take questions from the press.

Michael Hernandez was a multimedia reporter for KRWG Public Media from late 2017 through early 2020. He continues to appear on KRWG-TV from time to time on our popular "EnviroMinute" segments, which feature conservation and citizen science issues in the region.