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At Border, Sessions Warns Illegal Immigrants of 'Zero Tolerance' Prosecutions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference near the border with Tijuana, Mexico, on May 7, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in San Diego today that authorities would separate children from their parents and prosecute every immigrant who crosses the border illegally.

“We are not going to let this country be overwhelmed,” he said. “People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border.”

Nearly all of the group of about 150 Central American migrants who made the annual journey up through Mexico in a bid to request asylum at U.S. ports of entry have been admitted into the country for processing of their asylum claims.

A Honduran woman who was arrested and separated from her four young children after telling Border Patrol agents she wanted to file for asylum has filed a court motion accusing Sessions of discrimination, saying there were three Indian migrants in her group but only those from Central America were held for prosecution.

Sessions said today that the Department of Homeland Security “is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” and he’s put into place a “zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border.”

“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” he said. “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 make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony. If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too. You’re going to jail.”

“So if you’re going to come to this country, come here legally,” he added. “Don’t come here illegally.”

Sessions said he sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border to move cases along, “made even more necessary by the massive increases in illegal crossings in recent months.”

“I have no doubt that many of those crossing our border illegally are leaving difficult situations.  But we cannot take everyone on Earth who is in a difficult situation,” he said. “…If you want to change our laws, then pass a bill in Congress. Persuade your fellow citizens to your point of view.”

Until then, Sessions said, the Justice Department “is enforcing the law without exception.”