NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday will take a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border during a visit to Arizona.
Sessions will tour what is mostly rough terrain along the international border in Nogales, Arizona, about roughly 70 miles south of Tucson.
Sessions has made immigration enforcement a key Justice Department priority, saying he will speed up deportations of immigrants in the country illegally who were convicted of federal crimes.
Sessions has also defended federal immigration authorities who make arrests at courthouses, a practice advocates and the California Supreme Court chief justice say impedes on people’s access to justice and deters immigrants from reporting crimes and going to court.
The Tucson Sector, which comprises most of Arizona, was once the busiest area for illegal border crossings and drug smuggling, but movement has shifted in the past few years to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
The Arizona area saw about 65,000 arrests last fiscal year, roughly half the number agents made in 2012, according to Border Patrol data. Marijuana seizures have also dropped by about 28 percent from 1 million pounds in 2012 to 728,000 last year.
In March, Sessions said that the Justice Department will expand an existing program aimed at holding deportation hearings for immigrants while they are still in federal prison known as the Institutional Hearing Program.
Holding the hearings before the inmates’ sentences are finished would allow the government to deport them immediately when they’re released, as opposed to waiting until they go through an immigration court. Sessions’ proposal would set up 14 federal prisons and six contract facilities for immigration removal proceedings.
Following the border tour, Sessions will deliver a keynote speech at an International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Litchfield Park, Arizona. He’ll also speak with service members at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.
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