Thank you, Mark, for that kind introduction. And thank you for your more than 30 years of service in law enforcement.
I also want to thank Bob McConnell for putting on this event, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety for hosting us. The Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies and its members are an essential part of the law enforcement community, and this conference is an opportunity for more collaboration and information sharing. That makes all of us better at our shared task of protecting our country from violence and crime.
I want to thank Bob and the Association for your friendship and for your strong support for me personally going back to my days in the Senate. I also appreciate the support you have given for a number of the initiatives that I have taken as Attorney General.
I’m pleased to see that my home state of Alabama is well-represented here today. Clay Barnes is here, the Chief of the Investigation Division at the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. I worked with the Investigation Division a lot during my 14 years as a prosecutor and I was always impressed with their professionalism and their dedication.
The chief executives of 39 other state investigative agencies are here in this room, as well.
Tom Homan and David Bowdich are also here with us. I’ll be brief so that we can get to their remarks.
But before I say anything else, I want to take a moment to remember an officer this community is mourning right now. Officer Jesus Cordova of the Nogales Police Department was pursuing an alleged carjacker last Friday when he was shot to death. He was an 11-year veteran of the force. He left behind two daughters and a son, all under the age of 8. His wife is five months pregnant—with a son who has already been named in honor of his dad.
That son will never know his father. But he will know that his father was a man of courage and dedicated to service – for law, peace and order.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time and I know that yours are, too.
Officer Cordova’s passing is a tragic reminder of what is at stake in law enforcement.
And so I am here today on behalf of President Trump to say to each one of you: thank you for your service to this country.
In this administration, we know whose side we are on. We’re on the side of law-and-order.
We understand the risks you take and the tools you need to be effective.
This is not business as usual. This is the Trump era.
Our explicit goals for 2018 are to bring down violent crime, homicides, opioid prescriptions, and overdose deaths.
And with your help, that’s what we’re going to do.
The key to our success now will be the same as it was over those more than 20 years of declining crime: the 85 percent of law enforcement officers who serve at the state, local, and tribal level.
They use the investigative work that you do to take violent criminals off of our streets. And so it is no exaggeration to say that we are counting on you.
That’s why we need to ensure that you remain successful.
I understand that you’ve got a backlog right now and that some of you are probably feeling overwhelmed.
This has been an important issue to me for many years.
That’s why over the past year I have taken a number of steps to bring down the backlog at our crime labs.
In 2018, we will invest more than $100 million in state and local labs to make you faster, more efficient, and more effective. These funds will help reduce the backlog and free up other resources we can use to reduce violent crime and drug abuse.
We will also provide grant funding to identify previously un-submitted Sexual Assault Kits, test them, and then assign personnel to pursue any new investigative leads. This will help provide closure for sexual assault victims throughout the country and help put their assailants behind bars.
It is also critical that we deal with the growing encryption or the “going dark” problem.
And the stakes are high. Last year the FBI was unable to access investigation-related content on more than 7,700 devices—even though they had the legal authority to do so. Each of those devices was tied to a threat to the American people.
This is a large number, but it is small compared to the number that your agencies are unable to access because of encryption.
That’s why we are working with stakeholders in the private sector, in law enforcement, and in Congress to find a solution to this problem. Ultimately, we may need Congress to take action on this issue. I would appreciate your valuable input as we continue this process.
Reducing the backlog, improving Sexual Assault Kits, and solving the encryption problem will help you succeed.
We are also restoring the rule of law with regard to immigration. That will reduce crime.
Eleven million people are already here illegally. That’s more than the population of Portugal or the state of Georgia.
But, right now we are dealing with a massive influx of illegal aliens across our Southwest Border. In April we saw triple the number from last April.
But we’re not going to stand for this. We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness.
President Trump has made that clear to every agency and to Congress – and we need a wall.
Last month, I put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entries on our Southwest border referred by the Department of Homeland Security.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is partnering with us and will begin a new initiative that will result in referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution. And the Department of Justice will take up as many of those cases as humanly possible until we get to 100 percent.
If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.
If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you.
If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.
If you make false statements to an immigration officer or commit fraud in our system to obtain an immigration benefit, that’s a felony. We will put you in jail.
If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too.
In order to carry out these important new enforcement policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border. These are supervisory judges that don’t have existing caseloads and will be able to function full time on moving these cases. That will be about a 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges who will be handling the asylum claims.
Everything we do at the Department of Justice is dedicated to reducing crime in America. Perhaps the most important thing we can do toward that end is to improve our relationships with state and local partners like you.
We want to be a force-multiplier for you. We can help you—because we can reach defendants across state lines, across national borders, and even across oceans.
The work that you do – that you have dedicated your lives to – is essential. I believe it. The Department of Justice believes it. And President Trump believes it.
And so I want to close by thanking each of you once again for your service.
You can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.