Jeff Sessions Potential Impact as Attorney General

(ESPAÑOL) Tougher immigration judges. More prosecution of low-level immigration-law violations. And a cut-off of some law enforcement funds to cities that don’t hew to a harsher immigration policy.

Even without changing a single law, these are some of the major changes in immigration policy that Sen. Jeff Sessions could pursue if he is confirmed as U.S. attorney general.

Sessions, a four-term Republican senator from Alabama, successfully led efforts to kill immigration reform bills in Congress and is considered a fierce opponent of any pathway to legal status for the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally.

He would oversee the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which reimburses local jails for holding federal prisoners under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

In Senate speeches, Sessions has repeatedly called for cutting those funds to push local authorities to identify migrants in the country illegally and hand them over to federal agents.

Trump’s transition policy team has drawn up plans to pressure so-called sanctuary cities — including Los Angeles and Chicago — to help immigration agents identify those here illegally.

“The issue of sanctuary cities is substantially in the hands of the attorney general,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in Washington that advocates for lower immigration levels.

Under Sessions, Justice Department lawyers could try to get federal court orders for local officials to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

Also under Sessions, the Justice Department is likely to support states that give local police authority to enforce immigration laws. In 2012, after the Obama administration objected, the Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s so-called “papers, please” law on the grounds that the state was trying to enforce federal immigration laws.

Sessions also can instruct federal prosecutors to be more aggressive in filing criminal charges against migrants for illegal entry and reentry after deportation, convictions that can speed up deportation orders.