Sessions orders 'zero tolerance' policy at Southwest border

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions'Occupy ICE' protests emerge across the country Prosecutor warned border authorities office is ‘diverting’ DOJ resources from other cases: report There's room in America for domestic violence victims MORE announced Friday he’s implementing a zero tolerance policy for immigrants illegally crossing the Southwest border.

Sessions notified all federal prosecutors along that part of the border of the new policy in a memo Friday and directed them to make prosecuting criminal immigration offenses a priority.

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He also directed prosecutors to work with the Department of Homeland Security to develop guidelines for prosecuting offenses under immigration law. 

“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," he said in a statement.

The Department of Justice said the new policy is in response to a report from the Department of Homeland Security that showed a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018 and a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018 — the largest month-to-month increase since 2011.  

“The situation at our Southwest Border is unacceptable,” Sessions said in the statement. “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest — that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants in the Southwest spiked 40 percent from February to March. Apprehensions are generally used as an estimate for attempted illegal border crossings.

That spike is consistent with typical seasonal patterns of migration, but reverses sharp drops seen in the first year of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE's term.