U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured if the nation is going to have a lawful immigration system
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The Latest on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' trip to the border in New Mexico (all times local):
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured if the nation is going to have a lawful immigration system.
In a speech Wednesday in New Mexico, Sessions ticked off stories about drugs being smuggled across the border and illegal crossings that have taxed law enforcement, prosecutors and the court system.
The attorney general spoke in Las Cruces to a group of sheriffs whose departments patrol areas north of the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Sessions once again called the situation on the border a crisis that has been allowed to fester for decades and suggested those who oppose border security and immigration enforcement are radicals.
The Arizona National Guard plans to offer support at the U.S.-Mexico border for maintenance, repairs and surveillance but not law enforcement.
Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire says some of the 338 guardsmen and women being deployed will be armed for self-defense.
But they will mainly be called on for reconnaissance and operations support. Their tasks will include monitoring remote areas, providing air transportation for humanitarian aid or Border Patrol agents and fixing sections of fencing.
McGuire made the remarks Tuesday night on "Arizona Horizon," a TV show on Arizona PBS affiliate KAET-TV.
The Republican governors of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico committed 1,600 Guard members to the border after a request from President Donald Trump.
About three dozen people are protesting the Trump administration's plans for bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border as Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to address sheriffs from throughout the region.
Immigrant rights activists chanted in Spanish and waved signs Wednesday outside the New Mexico hotel where Sessions was scheduled to speak about immigration enforcement about an hour north of the border.
Their signs displayed opposition to the planned border wall and the deployment of National Guard troops to the region.
Sessions' trip to Las Cruces comes as construction begins nearby to replace about 20 miles (32 kilometers) of existing vehicle barriers with taller, more robust steel and concrete fencing.
Federal officials have said the sprawling desert area is a busy route for illegal crossings and drug smuggling.
As thousands of National Guard troops deploy to the Mexico border, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also traveling to the Southwest to speak about immigration to a meeting of sheriffs Wednesday.
Sessions will speak in Las Cruces at the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition Annual Spring Meeting with the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition. The sheriffs' counties are located within 25 miles of the United States' southern border.
A 37 percent increase in illegal border crossings in March brought more than 50,000 immigrants into the United States.
The attorney general has directed federal prosecutors to put more emphasis on charging people with illegal entry, including those entering the United States for the first time.
Immigrant rights activists promised to protest Sessions' visit.