Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz says she is concerned about the direction the Department of Justice is heading in under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ leadership.

Ortiz was nominated to her former position by President Obama in 2009 and resigned shortly after last year’s election in December. After spending seven years working for the DOJ, Ortiz says she is troubled by the department’s changes to policy on immigration and drug offenses.  

“The changes that are happening with the DOJ under Jeff Sessions, I’m concerned,” said Ortiz, during an interview on Boston Public Radio Weekend.

Ortiz has watched on the sidelines as the DOJ has gone back to policies that were in use during the height of the War on Drugs, including a stronger push for mandatory minimums on non-violent drug offenders. Ortiz says that this policy is being rolled out under the guise of a rise in drug-related violence, which she contends is a misleading rationalization.

Nationally, according to Ortiz, violent crime is actually at a historic low. She warned that extending sentences and imprisoning every offender will not eradicate violence and crime. “You can’t incarcerate your way to a safer community,” said Ortiz. “The premise of lock them up and throw away the key is not an effective way.”

As both the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Ortiz has been keeping a close eye on how the DOJ and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been handling their campaign against undocumented immigrants.

Ortiz believes that this increased pressure from ICE and the DOJ is not only going to hinder immigrant communities but the police that is sworn to protect them as well. “This is going to put a strain on their community policing and their relationships. It will make it nearly impossible to build relationships of trust,” said Ortiz.

“This is the United States of America. We are a country of immigrants,” she added. “To send out this kind of message, it not only generates tremendous fear, it generates tremendous hostility. It pits us against them. It is not a way to move forward. There is no question that we need serious immigration reform, but it needs to be done in a thoughtful process rather than using scare tactics to basically raid communities.”

To hear her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.