Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes visit to San Diego border

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting in Washington

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting in Washington

The country "cannot take everyone on Earth who is in a hard situation", Sessions said, before referring to a Gallup poll that indicated 150 million people around the world want to immigrate to the United States.

Families seeking asylum and presenting themselves at official US border crossings will be allowed to stay together as they seek protected status, according to a USA official familiar with the new policy. "We need legality and integrity in our immigration system".

"If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border", Sessions said, in typically severe remarks.

The Trump administration will increase criminal prosecutions of parents entering the United States illegally and place their children in protective custody, stepping up efforts to tighten immigration enforcement, USA officials said on Monday.

Reports surfaced last month that various immigration and border officials are pressing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to prosecute all parents crossing the U.S. -Mexico border illegally with their children in an effort to set an example for other migrants.

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By prosecuting adults and then treating their children as unaccompanied minors at the border, families would be separated as children are placed in shelters or with family while their cases for asylum are considered. However, the Homeland Security official told the LA Times that under the new rule, parents will face prosecution while their children are taken to a separate facility.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gestures as he speaks at the California Peace Officers' Association 26th Annual Law Enforcement Legislative Day on March 7, 2018, in Sacramento.

"I have no doubt that many of those crossing our border illegally are leaving hard situations", Sessions said.

The draconian new policy is expected to send a flood of deportation cases - and legal challenges - into federal courts.

He said he has sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border to help with asylum claims. "But we can not take everyone on this planet who is in a hard situation". "That's more than the population of Portugal or [the state of] Georgia".

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