Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. I am honored to be here today with all of you – the brave men and women of law enforcement. Your dedication, your commitment to justice and your patriotism are inspiring. Thank you for all you do to keep us safe.
I also want to thank Congressman Pete King for inviting me to visit his district. He has been a steadfast partner and leader in combating violent crime. Finally, let me thank our Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde of the Eastern District of New York. Bridget, thank you not only for your hospitality, but also for your leadership.
Today is the 99th day of President Trump’s administration. The President made a promise to make America safe again, and that is exactly what we are doing at the Department of Justice. The President has talked to me several times about this and his commitment to these issues is complete. He is very aware personally of the violence and murders here.
We’re seeing an increase in violent crime our cities – in Baltimore, Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, St. Louis and many others. But gang violence has also been in the headlines right here in the suburbs of Long Island, while the murder rate has surged 10 percent nationwide – the largest increase since 1968. Groups of murderers, rapists, traffickers and thugs are carrying out a frontal assault on the decent, law-abiding men and women of this community and others like it across our country.
This is not acceptable, and the American people will not tolerate it.
Are these gang and cartel members violent and formidable foes? They sure are. But they are also mortal, and that means they can be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for their crimes. And that’s what we are going to do.
MS-13’s motto is “kill, rape and control.” Let me tell you our motto: justice for victims and consequences for criminals. It is that simple. We will prosecute gang members who commit crimes, to the full extent of the law.
This community is no stranger to violence. You know the story: last September, two teenage girls here were beaten to death using baseball bats and a machete. Earlier this month, police in Central Islip found the bodies of four young men, ranging in age from 16 to 20. They had been murdered and their bodies were dumped in a park. One of these young men was an honor student.
I have a message for any gang that targets our young people: we are targeting you, and we are coming after you.
Transnational criminal organizations represent one of the gravest threats to American public safety today. These groups enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the neighborhoods where they operate and slipping their ill-gotten wealth back to their home countries.
For example, there are over 30,000 MS-13 members abroad, with their headquarters in the El Salvadoran prison system. According to the National Gang Intelligence Center, MS-13 now has more than 10,000 members in at least 40 states in this country – up significantly from just a few years ago.
The Justice Department has zero tolerance for gang violence. If you are a gang member, know this: We will find you. We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks and seize your profits. We will not concede a single block or street corner to your vicious tactics.
Long-term success against such transnational criminal organizations requires securing our borders and restoring a lawful system of immigration. We must also dismantle the human smuggling networks that operate along our nation’s southern border. If we don’t do this, their leadership will simply send new emissaries and recruiters back to the United States to replace the ones we take off the streets.
From past investigations, we know these transnational criminal organizations smuggle members into our country almost exclusively through our border with Mexico. They station these gang members in safe houses in Texas, before they travel to various points around the United States.
We will identify these smuggling networks, investigate and build cases against them, and dismantle them through targeted prosecutions. Then, these people will be deported. Securing our border and restoring a lawful system of immigration are an essential part of our strategy to combat criminal groups and ensure public safety in our country – and we will see this task through and end the lawlessness.
Finally, we must do more to send a clear message to our young people: for the sake of your lives and your futures, stay away from gangs, drugs and violent crime. Prevention is critical.
We know that gangs aren’t content to simply ruin the lives of adults – they recruit in our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools. They recruit unaccompanied minors coming into this country. And every time they convert a young person to their depraved life of violence and crime, they steal their future and a part of our nation’s future.
To parents out there, know this: we will not surrender our schools to these gangs. We will not allow them to prey on our children in the hallways. This is a fight we must win.
If the threat of violence from these gangs wasn’t enough, our nation is also suffering from an unprecedented epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever. And a new report this week revealed that in 2015, “drugged driving” deaths surpassed drunk-driving deaths for the first time.
Our nation must do everything in its power to help young people who find themselves already trapped in the dark worlds of gang violence or drug abuse. But the best way to tackle these problems is to convince young people to stay away from gangs and drugs and violence in the first place.
The fight against violent transnational gangs, drugs and violent crime will not be easy. It is a huge task. But we know it can be done. Our nation has successfully taken on violent criminal organizations before, and we can do it again.
This fight will require strong leadership and cooperation at the federal, state, and local levels – and the Department of Justice is working hard to do our part. This is the Trump era – so you can be confident that this nation’s leadership has your back.
In many areas, we have already made dramatic progress in these first 100 days. To carry out the President’s commitment to combat violent crime and restore public safety, in February we established a Department of Justice Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. In March, I issued a memo to all federal prosecutors, making clear that prosecuting violent criminals is a high priority, and directing them to work closely with their federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to target the most violent offenders in each district.
Along with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, we are also carrying out the President’s promise to secure our borders and restore a lawful system of immigration. Last month, I announced new guidance to federal prosecutors regarding our commitment to criminal immigration enforcement. We are making such enforcement a priority.
Those who attempt to enter the country illegally are now detained – ending the dangerous “catch and release” policies of the previous administration. To reduce the backlog of cases at the border, we have surged immigration judges to detention facilities near the border, and streamlined the process for bringing on additional immigration judges, so we can adjudicate these cases more swiftly. And thanks to President Trump’s clear leadership on this issue, illegal border crossings are at their lowest monthly figure in at least 17 years.
We have also taken steps to end the lawless practices of so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which make our country less safe. I understand there are those who disagree. But the American people rightly demand a lawful system of immigration. Congress has established a lawful system of immigration.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics just released a report showing that 42 percent of defendants charged in U.S. district court were non-U.S. citizens. And according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in 2013, 48 percent of all deported aliens who were convicted for coming back to the United States illegally were also convicted of a non-immigration related crime.
And yet, I regret to say that we’ve seen district attorneys openly brag about not charging cases appropriately – giving special treatment to illegal aliens to ensure these criminal aliens aren’t deported from their communities. They advertise that they will charge a criminal alien with a lesser offense than presumably they would charge a United States citizen. It baffles me.
Regardless, no jurisdiction has a right to violate federal law, especially when that violation leads to the death of innocent Americans, like Kate Steinle. As the President has made clear, our system is a system of laws, and we will be the Administration that ends the rampant immigration illegality.
At the direction of President Trump, our department is also working to make sure that all of you, the brave men and women of law enforcement, understand that our nation supports your noble work and has the back of all honest and honorable law enforcement officers.
I have directed our department to develop strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public. And I have made clear that this Department of Justice will not sign consent decrees that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of criminals and stopping lawful police procedures that have been proven to reduce crime.
This is just the beginning. In all that we do, the Department of Justice will be guided by a clear sense of purpose: we will maintain public safety; we will uphold the Constitution and enforce our nation’s laws; and we will ensure equal justice for all Americans. And I am confident that with the President’s support and with you leading the way, we will win this fight.
Thank you again for working so hard to ensure the safety and security of America.