In Las Cruces, Sessions talks stricter immigration efforts

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined the Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies and enforcement while speaking at the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition and the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition spring conference in Las Cruces

Sessions reiterated pledges to increase prosecutions of those who enter the country illegally in an attempt to deter others from even attempting to enter. “If you break into our country, we will prosecute you,” Sessions said. Sessions said that Trump “expects us to not just play around with this problem, but to fix it and that’s certainly my goal.”

One way he said Trump would help solve illegal immigration is by building a border wall. He said the lack of such a wall was “an open invitation to illegal crossings.”

He also praised the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Mexico, which he said “already demonstrated its effectiveness over the last two years.” He said the office’s prosecutions of illegal crossings increased seven-fold from two years ago. Sessions described several so-called “loopholes” in the immigration process, including what he called a “credible fear loophole.” He was referring to a longstanding U.S. policy that allows  people who have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country to gain asylum admittance.

Sessions turned to convicted fundraiser for advice on U.S. Attorneys

In November 2016, just after the election, President-elect Donald Trump announced Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general. His confirmation was still a couple of months away, but the Republican senator from Alabama went quickly to work helping to shape the Justice Department he would soon inherit. One task was to line up U.S. attorney nominees to potentially replace Obama administration holdovers leading offices across the country. It is a common bit of work for a new administration, and recommendations for posts as federal prosecutors typically come from senators of every state, as well as former Department of Justice officials. In at least one instance, however, Sessions wound up turning to a more unorthodox source for recommendations — Elliott Broidy.

Federal government tells border prosecutors to adopt “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors on the southwest border to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against anyone who enters or attempts to enter the country illegally, a mandate he said “supersedes” any prior directives. “To those who wish to challenge the Trump Administration’s commitment to public safety, national security, and the rule of law, I warn you: illegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “To the Department’s prosecutors, I urge you: promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”

The directive instructs all federal prosecutors on the southwest border to prosecute all Department of Homeland Security referrals for alleged violations of federal immigration illegal-entry laws. In a one-page memo sent to federal prosecutors on the southwest border, Sessions said the goal wasn’t merely developing more immigration cases, but instead an end to the “illegality in [the] immigration system.” He added that if the new policy requires more resources, the offices should identify and request those to the Department of Justice. The mandate comes the same week President Donald Trump has assailed Democrats for supporting what he said are “catch and release” policies where individuals apprehended by the Border Patrol are released while they await a court date.

DOJ threatens (again) to withhold funds from Bernalillo County over immigration info sharing

The U.S. Department of Justice is again threatening to withhold some crimefighting funds from Bernalillo County over what the Trump administration has called “sanctuary” policies. The DOJ contacted Bernalillo County and 22 other jurisdictions, including New York City and the states of California, Illinois and Oregon, saying they violated the law that promotes sharing immigration enforcement information with the federal government. DOJ says the statute requires cooperation as a condition for receiving grants through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Wednesday, DOJ threatened to subpoena officials who do not comply with their documents request. The threat is the latest in the fight between the federal government and local jurisdictions they deem as “sanctuary.” There is no formal definition of a so-called “sanctuary” city or county, though the Trump administration generally uses it to refer to local jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal requests to aid enforcement of immigration law.

Sessions’ marijuana decision likely won’t impact medical marijuana

The U.S. Department of Justice does not appear to be concerned with medical cannabis producers or patients, including those in New Mexico, despite a memo Thursday from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session that signaled a federal crackdown on legal marijuana. Sessions’ memo officially rescinded guidance from the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama regarding cannabis. Instead, Sessions wrote, each U.S. Attorney has the discretion to determine which types of cannabis-related cases should be federally prosecuted. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico James Tierney did not respond to a request for comment. New Mexico law only allows for medical cannabis use, which was not specifically addressed in Session’s memo.

DOJ refers criminal accusations by Pearce on fetal tissue donations to FBI

Anti-abortion activists praised the U.S. Department of Justice for sending several criminal referrals to the FBI with allegations that the University of New Mexico Hospital and Southwest Women’s Options conducted illegal activities related to fetal tissue donations. In a letter last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Stephen Boyd addressed concerns U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce raised in September. Pearce is New Mexico’s lone Republican member of the delegation. “This is a serious matter, and the Department takes these referrals seriously,” Boyd wrote to the congressman. “The Department has brought each of these referrals to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for review and any appropriate follow-up action.”

The issue goes back to a 2015 video that allegedly showed that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue.

Hopes and fears: One DACA recipient’s story

Off to the side of Highway 10, somewhere in between Las Cruces and El Paso, Michel Nieves lives in a house with his parents and four siblings. Nieves, 20, and two older siblings have protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His 16-year-old sister is awaiting approval. His 5-year-old sister is the only U.S. citizen in the household. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.

NM’s AG, others sue Trump administration over ending DACA

New Mexico’s top law enforcement officer joined 15 other attorneys general in suing the federal government to stop the Trump administration from deporting people whose parents  brought them to the country illegally as children. New Mexico Attorney General was among those who opposed President Donald Trump’s plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by a Barack Obama executive order, in six months. Those who remain in the country under the status can stay until their waives expire and the renewals typically last two years. After six months, the administration would no longer accept new renewals and those whose status expired would be subject to removal from the country. The lawsuit says the Trump decision, announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week, discriminates against DACA recipients and harms states and  their economies.

NM elected officials slam Trump’s decision to rescind DACA

Elected officials in New Mexico slammed Trump administration plans to end a program that allows hundreds of thousands of people to remain in the country, who were brought to the country as children and do not have documentation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday. The Department of Homeland Security will no longer process new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, after Sept. 5. The administration will, however, says it will continue to renew permits for any of those currently under DACA, known as DREAMers, for another six months.

How Jeff Sessions misrepresented the Trump administration’s expansion of military supplies for police

The Trump administration made false assertions to justify an executive order expanding police forces’ access to military equipment such as tanks and grenade launchers. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that President Trump would make defensive gear available to police again by undoing a policy from the Obama administration. Trump then signed an executive order whose title emphasized that branding: “Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement’s Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources.”

“He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies’ ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life-saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first-responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now,” Sessions said in the speech. But that’s not what the Obama administration’s restrictions did, according to documentation from a unit inside of Sessions’ own Justice Department, the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Kevlar vests were never subject to any restrictions.