Attorney General Jeff Sessions to visit San Diego border Monday

Attorney General Jeff Sessions to visit San Diego border Monday

The Department of Homeland Security reported nearly 51,000 people were arrested or turned away at the southwest border in April.

In one recent example of how the policy works, a woman who is suspected by the Justice Department of being part of the migrant caravan that was caught in a group north of the border was charged with illegal entry to the United States and separated from the four young children who were with her.

That means parents will likely face prosecution while their children remain in detention at a "separate refugee facility", according to the Los Angeles Times.

"If you smuggle an illegal alien across the border, then we'll prosecute you for smuggling", Sessions said.

Monday's announcement came about a week after hundreds of Central American migrants traveled to the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry seeking asylum following a monthlong caravan through Mexico.

The move comes amid intense attention to the caravan - an annual journey of mostly women and children fleeing what they say are unsafe situations at home through Mexico to make asylum claims in the US.

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President Donald Trump was in San Diego to survey border wall prototypes in March, and Vice President Mike Pence addressed Homeland Security and Border Patrol employees at the El Centro Border Patrol Station on April 30, to call for tougher controls on immigration.

In the past month, Border Patrol officers say they have encountered more than 50,000 immigrants trying to enter the United States.

Sessions, who as attorney general has been especially aggressive on immigration, said that to carry out the new enforcement policies, he was sending 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and 18 immigration judges to the border to handle asylum claims. Last fiscal year, the number of immigration prosecutions declined 14 percent, to almost 60,000.

Criminal prosecutions at the border have soared over the past two decades, from fewer than 10,000 cases in 1996 to more than 90,000 at their peak in 2013 under former president Barack Obama, according to TRAC, a Syracuse University organization that tracks criminal immigration prosecutions.

"When respect for the rule of law diminishes, so too does our ability to protect our great nation, its borders and its citizens", Sessions said in a statement.

Supporters of the program credited it with reducing the number of crossings and repeat offenders, while critics said it overwhelmed the courts and USA attorneys offices with low-level crimes that made it hard to use resources to go after serious and risky crime like drug smuggling and cartels.

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