Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Southwestern Border Sheriffs' Coalition in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Tuesday that the Justice Department is committed to securing the country's southern border with Mexico.
"The work that you do—that you have dedicated your lives to—is essential," he said.
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Sessions said the country faces a wide range of threats coming across the border.
"A 2,000-mile border leaves this country vulnerable to transnational criminal organizations like drug cartels, violent street gangs like MS-13, human traffickers, and other criminals who bring drugs, guns, and gang violence into our communities," Sessions said.
"We recognize that you are the thin blue line between the law-abiding people and the criminals," he added.
Sessions noted that after President Trump's inauguration, border crossing dropped sharply but are now creeping back up.
"We're going to step up our efforts to achieve zero tolerance and zero releases—and 100 percent prosecutions wherever possible," Sessions said to applause.
He said that, while it is not possible for him to do everything this year that he wants, they're moving in the right direction.
Sessions also called out sanctuary cities and California's sanctuary policies.
"Cities, states, and counties that knowingly, willfully, and purposefully release criminal aliens back into their communities are sacrificing the lives and safety of American citizens in the pursuit of an extreme open borders policy," he said.