Attorney general, Homeland chief to visit El Paso

New U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly will visit El Paso on Thursday as part of a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.


The visit is part of a tour of various parts of the border with Mexico. On April 11, Sessions visited the border in Nogales, Ariz., where he spoke about a getting tougher on immigration prosecutions. It was Sessions' first visit to the border as the nation's top law enforcement official.

“I am honored that they accepted my invitation to come and see the El Paso community and all that we have to offer," El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said. "I look forward to our meeting on Thursday and the opportunity to share our perspective on immigration, border security, and international trade.”

The border tour comes amid controversial proposals by President Donald Trump, including a proposed border wall and a crackdown on illegal immigration.

"This is a new era. This is the Trump era," Sessions said in Arizona, according to The Associated Press. "The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over."

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In Nogales, Sessions announced a plan to hire 50 new immigration judges for the border this year and 75 more in 2018 to deal with a huge backlog in immigration appeals, the Arizona Republic reported.

In a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing, Trump's attorney general delivered a message to sanctuary cites: comply with immigration cops or lose your federal funding. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department is taking steps to implement one of President Donald Trump’s core campaign promises by withholding some federal funds from sanctuary cities. The move will push law enforcement officers in towns, counties and cities around the country to cooperate more with ICE. Critics say that law enforcement cooperation with ICE could undercut their relationships with immigrant communities. Wochit

Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, also has directed federal prosecutors to consider filing felony charges against immigrants accused of making repeated entries into the United States, charging people accused of harboring undocumented immigrants and making the prosecution of assault on a federal law enforcement officer a top priority.

"I think it is so important that officials who create public policy in Washington, D.C., come to the border and see for themselves the safety, tranquility and significance of border communities like El Paso," El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said.

"Frequently in Washington, D.C., you hear false rhetoric about our community, and that leads to wrongful policies and wasteful spending, like the wall," Escobar said.

Kelly is a retired U.S. Marines Corps general and former commander of the U.S. Southern Command, which works with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration in international drug interdiction efforts.

Kelly was selected by Trump to head the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is made up of 22 branches, including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Administration.

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During his confirmation hearing in January, Kelly spoke about a previous visit to the El Paso border. Kelly said that he was on Department of Defense business in El Paso months earlier when he saw a half-dozen people jump the 18-foot-tall border fence about 200 yards away while he was talking with a group of Border Patrol agents.

"I'm standing there just expecting the officers to jump in their cars, put their lights on and dash down there, and they said, 'What's the use,' " Kelly said, according to a confirmation hearing video. "I was surprised; that's not good for morale."

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, said it's important that officials in Washington, D.C., visit border communities and listen to law enforcement agents, elected leaders and residents.

On the rise:AG Sessions paints grim portrait of crime in U.S.

"They should understand how Trump administration policies have already made El Paso less safe as people in some parts of our community no longer feel comfortable reporting a crime, testifying in a trial and reporting security issues in their neighborhoods because of fear and anxiety by the Trump administration," O'Rourke said, referring to undocumented immigrants' fears of arrest and deportation.

"In February, I wrote a letter to Secretary Kelly regarding (an undocumented) woman arrested at the courthouse and have yet to hear a response. We deserve more than that," said O'Rourke, who is not scheduled to meet with Sessions and Kelly in their El Paso visit.

An official said more information on the visit would be released Wednesday.

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