Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming.
Securing the Southwest Border is a top priority of the Department of Justice, and I’m pleased to be here to discuss the issue with New Mexico’s U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias, as well as with Albuquerque Chief of Police Ray Schultz, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, Robert Gilbert from the Border Patrol and Command General Kenny Montoya from the New Mexico National Guard.
Border security is an essential step toward achieving comprehensive immigration reform. It is an obvious, pressing task in the midst of a larger, complicated and emotional challenge.
As both the grandson of Mexican immigrants and as a law enforcement official, border security and immigration reform are close to my heart and always on my mind.
Regardless of our backgrounds or perspective on the issue, I know that none of us can ignore the security threat that exists due to the level of ease with which foreigners can enter our country illegally. It’s a problem that we cannot delay solving.
I believe that we can still take pride in being an open country and a nation of immigrants, while also protecting our country from those who seek to harm us.
Successfully securing our borders will take manpower, the implementation of technology, the end of the practice of “catch and release,” and a dedication at all levels of government – local, state and federal – to keeping the criminals out, period.
It will also take comprehensive immigration reform – and for that, Congress needs to act.
The President does not want to militarize the borders, but he has called on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements.
Congress has responded, and we’re very pleased to announce, today, that the United States Attorneys’ Offices along the Southwest Border will now receive $2 million in supplemental funding to expand their capability to prosecute immigration and narcotics offenses on the border. We believe an increased chance of prosecution will make illegal crossing less attractive to criminals.
Twenty-five additional federal prosecutors will be deployed along the Southwest Border in the coming months.
Twenty of these prosecutors will be hired solely to prosecute immigration offenses, which means we will have the capacity to prosecute more alien smuggling cases, more criminal alien reentry cases, and more human trafficking cases on the border.
Five of these prosecutors will prosecute drug trafficking organizations responsible for smuggling illegal narcotics across our Southwest border, and will be funded through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, a joint task force of the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security.
We are also working with the Department of Homeland Security to identify up to ten DHS lawyers who will be designated as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to prosecute immigration offenses along the Southwest Border.
Immigration prosecutions are already on the rise – with an increase of 40 percent since the year 2000. But we know there is more to be done. The immediate hiring of these new AUSAs will help.
I look forward to the day when the efforts of these new AUSAs, and law enforcement all along the border, will be bolstered by comprehensive immigration reform. Again, this issue is in the hands of the Congress – I hope they will act responsibly, thoughtfully and expeditiously.
David will say a few words and then we’d be happy to take your questions.