“When we talk about MS-13 and the cartels, what do we mean? We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings.” – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
News Staff : Apr 13, 2017 : U.S. Department of Justice
(Litchfield Park, AZ) — [U.S. Department of Justice] The following are excerpts from a keynote speech Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Division Midyear Conference on Tuesday: (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be with you in the beautiful state of Arizona, and an honor to speak with so many outstanding law enforcement leaders. Thank you for everything you do to protect your communities.
I have had the privilege of being Attorney General for just over two months now, and our team has been hard at work. At the direction of President Trump, the Department of Justice is focusing on several key priorities, including promoting public safety; restoring a lawful system of immigration; and supporting and protecting the brave men and women of law enforcement.
Today, I want to talk about our efforts in these three areas.
All of us who work in law enforcement want to keep people safe. That is the heart of our jobs; it is what drives us every day.
Our nation has won great victories against crime in the past four decades — and the good people of law enforcement made those victories possible. Murder rates are half of what they were in 1980, and we have driven the violent crime rate down to almost half of what it was at its peak. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
But today, we also see signs that this progress is now at risk.
The latest FBI data tell us that from 2014 to 2015, the violent crime rate in the U.S. increased by more than 3 percent — the largest one-year increase since 1991. The murder rate increased 10 percent — the largest increase since 1968.
If this was just a one-year spike, we might not worry too much. But the preliminary data for the first half of 2016 showed further increases.
These numbers should trouble all of us — especially those of us charged with protecting public safety. Behind all the data are real people whose safety and lives are at stake.
My fear is that this surge in violent crime is not a “blip,” but the start of a dangerous new trend — one that puts at risk the hard-won gains that have made our country a safer place.
While we can hope for the best, hope is not a strategy. We must act decisively at all levels — federal, state and local — to reverse this rise in violent crime and ensure public safety.
Leadership from the top is essential — and President Trump has given us clear direction. In February, he issued three executive orders directing the federal government to reduce crime and restore public safety. This is a high priority for him, and for the Department of Justice, so I want to discuss briefly how we are tackling it.
First, we are making sure the federal government focuses its resources and efforts on this surge in violent crime …
To improve public safety, we must also restore a lawful system of immigration — one that serves our national interest, upholds the rule of law and keeps us safe. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Earlier this morning, I toured the border area near Nogales and met with Customs and Border Protection agents there. These are dedicated people, doing challenging work under tough conditions. We must give them all the help they need to secure our borders and stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into our country. We must help and empower them to interdict and disrupt violent cartels and transnational gangs like MS-13 at the border, so they can no longer infiltrate communities around the country with their death and destruction.
The President has made this a priority — and already we are seeing the results. From January to February of this year, illegal border crossings dropped by 40 percent, which was unprecedented. Then, last month, we saw a 72 percent drop compared to the month before the President was inaugurated. That’s the lowest monthly figure for at least 17 years.
This is no accident. This is what happens when you have a President who understands the threat, who is not afraid to publically identify the threat and stand up to it, and who makes clear to law enforcement that the leadership of their country finally has their back. When criminals know we will enforce our laws, they are less likely to attempt to break those laws in the first place.
The Department of Justice is doing several things to build on this progress.
This morning, I announced new guidance directing all federal prosecutors to prioritize criminal immigration enforcement. These prosecutors are now required to consider for prosecution all of the following offenses:
- The transportation or harboring of aliens. We are going to shut down and jail those who are profiting off this lawlessness — people who smuggle gang members and convicted criminals across the border, and who prey on those who don’t know how dangerous the journey can be.
- Further, where an alien has unlawfully entered the country, which is a misdemeanor, that alien will now be charged with a felony if they unlawfully enter or attempt to enter a second time and certain aggravating circumstances are present.
- Also, aliens that illegally re-enter the country after prior removal will be referred for felony prosecution — and a priority will be given to such offenses, especially where indicators of gang affiliation, a risk to public safety or criminal history are present.
- Fourth: where possible, prosecutors are directed to charge criminal aliens with document fraud and aggravated identity theft — the latter carrying a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly: I have directed that all 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices make the prosecution of assault on a federal law enforcement officer a top priority. If someone dares to assault one of our people in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it …
For those that continue to seek unlawful entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over.
Today I also announced a series of reforms regarding immigration judges to address the significant backlogs in our immigration courts.
Pursuant to the President’s executive order, we will now be detaining all adults who we apprehend at the border. To support this mission, we have already surged 25 immigration judges to detention centers along the border.
In addition, we will put 50 more immigration judges on the bench this year and 75 next year. We can no longer afford to wait 18 to 24 months to get these new judges on the bench. So today, I have implemented a new, streamlined hiring plan. It requires just as much vetting as before, but reduces the timeline, reflecting the dire need to reduce the backlogs in our immigration courts.
With the President’s Executive Orders on Border Security, Transnational Criminal Organizations, and Public Safety as our guideposts, we will execute a strategy that once again secures the border; apprehends and prosecutes those criminal aliens that threaten our public safety; takes the fight to gangs like MS-13 and Los Zetas; and makes dismantlement and destruction of cartels a top priority.
Finally, to restore a lawful immigration system and protect public safety, we must also address the issue of so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
The Department of Justice has a great tradition of working with states and cities to make our communities safer. In few areas is this cooperation more vital than in the enforcement of our immigration laws …
But there are holdouts. Some mayors and city councils, and even a police chief and a sheriff here and there, are refusing to work with the federal government, choosing instead to protect the criminal aliens who harm public safety. Today, I urge them to work with us. For the sake of your communities, families, and children, work with us, so we can restore a lawful system of immigration and make our country a safer place.
Protecting and Supporting Law Enforcement
Another priority of President Trump’s, and this Department of Justice, is to protect and support our brave men and women in law enforcement.
The federal government alone cannot meet the challenge of violent crime and drugs. In fact, about 85 percent of all law enforcement officers in our nation are state, local and tribal. These are the men and women you lead, the ones on the front lines.
Unfortunately, in recent years, as you know, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the crimes and unacceptable deeds of a few bad actors. Amid this intense criticism, morale has gone down, while the number of officers killed in the line of duty has gone up …
Certainly, we must continue to address police misconduct, and the Department of Justice will do its part. But we also can’t lose sight of two things.
First, the vast majority of men and women in law enforcement are good people who have chosen to do tremendously hard jobs because they want to protect us all. You know this, because you lead these good people every day.
Today, I affirm this commitment to you: This Department of Justice will encourage the proactive policing that your departments must do to keep our neighborhoods safe. And we will have the back of all honest and honorable law enforcement officers.
This afternoon I have discussed just a few of the many challenges we face in our work to keep our country safe. These challenges are too vast for any one department or agency to confront alone. So we must take them on together, to ensure justice and safety for all Americans.
In this great task, I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each of you, and with all the good men and women you lead.
Thank you for inviting me here today.
U.S. Department of Justice