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What Is Trump’s Zero Tolerance Policy

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Challenge By 17 States

Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy

On June 26, 2018, a separate legal challenge to the family separation was brought by 17 states against the Trump administration. The suit was filed in the US District Court in Seattle. The plaintiff states, all of whom have Democratic state attorneys general, challenge the forcible separation of families as a “cruel and unlawful” violation of the constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clause.Washington Attorney GeneralBob Ferguson is leading the suit. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who represents California, called Trump’s executive order putting a halt to the policy as an “empty and meaningless order that claims to take back policies that he put in place himself as a political stunt”.

Continued Detention Of Separated Children

Following the issue of the executive order, HHS stated that the status of children already detained would not be affected by the executive order, and that they would not be immediately reunited with their families. However, it was later reported that the statement by Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, that “there will be no grandfathering of existing cases” was based on incorrect information and no decision had been made.

A fact sheet on “Zero-Tolerance Prosecution and Family Reunification” that was released by the Department of Health and Human Services stated that a parent may request that their child be deported with them. However, the agency said that in the past many parents had elected to be deported without their children.

On June 26, 2018, HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified that 2,047 children continued to be held in HHS-contracted facilities. He said that only parents who are deported or who are granted entry to the United States could be reunited with their children. He further testified that HHS would reunite children with their detained parents only if Congress passed legislation lifting the 20-day limit on family detention required under the Flores settlement. Azar also implied that around 250 children formerly in HHS custody had been reunited with family members in the United States, rather with those they had accompanied across the border.


Dhhs Office Of The Inspector General Reports

In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services , Office of the Inspector General issued two reports which addressed the effects of separation and detainment on the mental health of migrant children and the deficiencies they found in children’s holding centers including the under-staffing of mental health workers. The investigations were done in August and September 2018. Speaking with facility mental health clinicians and program directors, they reported that separated children exhibited “fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress” with some children exhibiting acute symptoms of grief such as crying inconsolably. While healthcare professionals have repeatedly spoken out about the trauma that is being inflicted on migrant children, this is the first time that Trump administration officials have acknowledged the harm that is being done.

After reviewing the report, the organization Physicians for Human Rights commented that the government must end family separations, reunite those who have been separated, and provide reparations for the harm that separation has caused. They advised:

No child belongs in immigration detention, even if they are detained alongside their parents. This administration should immediately adopt community-based alternatives to detention, which are humane and effective, and which lessen trauma experienced by children and families.

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What Happened To The Children After They Were Separated From Their Families

When children are taken from parents by the Department of Homeland Security at the border, the law requires that the child be transferred to the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. Currently, HHS has 11,200 beds to care for such children, well below the number needed. Because there was so little room left to house children at government facilities, the Trump Administration opened tent cities along the Texas border.

As a result, according to an expose by NBC News, children were left in unsafe conditions at border stations longer than necessary and in violation of the law. In some cases the children were kept in cages and in places they called the ice box because it was so cold.


Children just a few months old were separated and taken away from their parents. In some cases, even after the parents have been deported, the government held onto the children and prevented the families from being reunited.

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Before zero tolerance, more serious border offenses, including violent offenses or illegal re-entry at the border, were more commonly charged in federal court.

Rather than tell prosecutors never to prosecute misdemeanors, Wilkinson’s letter advises them to use discretion rather than a zero-tolerance approach.

Wilkinson said the Justice Department’s Principles of Federal Prosecution tell prosecutors that they should “take into account other individualized factors, including personal circumstances and criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, and the probable sentence or other consequences that would result from a conviction.”

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Report: Management Of Trumps Zero Tolerance Policy Failed

Leadership fails to manage rules and fallout of the short-lived Trump policy that separated 3,000 families.

Justice Department leaders under President Donald Trump knew their 2018 zero tolerance border policy would result in family separations but pressed on with prosecutions even as other agencies became overwhelmed with migrants, a government watchdog report released on Thursday has found.

The report from the inspector general for the Justice Department found that leadership failed to prepare to implement the policy or manage the fallout, which resulted in more than 3,000 family separations and caused lasting emotional damage to children who were taken from their parents at the border. The policy was widely condemned by world leaders, religious groups and legislators in the US as cruel.

The report found that one of the administrations talking points was: An illegal alien should not get a free pass just because he or she crosses the border illegally with a child.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, along with other top leaders in the Trump administration, were bent on curbing immigration. The zero tolerance policy was one of several increasingly restrictive policies aimed at discouraging migrants from coming to the southern border. Trumps administration also vastly reduced the number of refugees allowed into the US and all but halted asylum at the border, through a combination of executive orders and regulation changes.


The Zero Tolerance Policy: Cruel In Conflict With Us International Obligations And Us Policy Costly And Of Uncertain Deterrent Effect

For both adult migrants and their children, detention can be a major contributing factor to mental deterioration, despondency, suicidality, anger, and frustration…

The zero tolerance policy is fundamentally cruel: RI is particularly concerned about continued efforts by the administration to secure judicial authorization of long-term family detention. For both adult migrants and their children, detention can be a major contributing factor to mental deterioration, despondency, suicidality, anger, and frustration. A recent ProPublica report only heightens those concerns with respect to children. ProPublica examined police reports and call logs from the last five years related to 70 immigrant detention facilities that house children and details reported sexual abuse and exploitation against migrant children.

…the Refugee Convention provision recognizes that those fleeing persecution should not be treated punitively, and that recognition is also reflected in U.S. policy.

In essence, the Refugee Convention provision recognizes that those fleeing persecution should not be treated punitively, and that recognition is also reflected in U.S. policy. In particular, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement directive provides that the government is to consider each asylum applicants eligibility for parole, based on the facts of the individuals case. In particular:

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Chaos In The Courtroomscaos En Los Tribunales

As zero tolerance went into effect, federal courtrooms along the border were beset by an atmosphere of chaos and desperation, dozens of attorneys, judges and advocates told the Guardian.

People were panicking, recalled Carlos Quinonez, a defense attorney in El Paso, Texas. Ive never seen so many people.


It was a shock for everyone, said Daniela Chisolm, another El Paso attorney. You had 75 people in chains: 18-year-old girls from Guatemala, 70-year-old men from Honduras The first day, I had 15 clients, and nine of them had children taken from them.

Defense attorneys spoke of an exponential increase in the number of cases they were assigned, made all the more challenging by their clients anxiety after losing their children. I spent a lot of time having to refocus my clients, said Quinonez. They were focused on where their kids were.

While federal public defenders usually represent indigent defendants charged with felonies, the task of representing the thousands of misdemeanor illegal entry cases often fell to private defense attorneys like Quinonez and Chisolm, whose fees the government pays. Pierce, the Las Cruces defense attorney, said he came to consider those payments blood money. We get paid to do this, but its not really what we signed up for, he said. You want to defend people in a criminal case, not because someone crossed the border looking for work.

He is yet to be reunited with Marco.

Aún no se ha reunido con Marco.


Current Immigration Laws Must Be Enforced

Trump defends zero-tolerance policy

Human traffickers know that in the present system, overwhelmed to the point of breaking, the people they bring to the United States will be allowed in, even if caught.

Ignoring the spirit of America:Trump’s America would welcome me but not my grandfather. That’s a mistake.

We must also do a better job of determining which applicants for asylum are fleeing real threats, and which are simply applying for economic reasons. America must remain welcoming, but we cannot support the poor of the entire world.

Fixing immigration will mean reforming a system that hurts both immigrants and U.S.-born workers. Our current low unemployment rate and high number of job openings combine to provide a powerful temptation for employers to fill jobs with any workers they can find. As long as businesses are allowed to exploit illegal labor, Americans and other legal workers cannot adequately compete for those jobs.

A truly functioning and properly enforced guest worker program would incentivize employers to fill these jobs lawfully, increase costs for hiring illegal workers and shut down the dangerous and economically disastrous black market for labor in this country.


The end result of real immigration reform would be a stronger America. After all, immigrants have a strong entrepreneurial streak and help create jobs. Their taxes go into the US coffers, and their participation in the lives of our communities further enrich us.

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Humane And Viable Alternatives To Detention

In light of both the enormous human and other costs of current practices not to mention their failure to achieve immigration control objectives it is incumbent upon policymakers to consider alternatives to detention. There may be no single alternative that, by itself, will achieve critical human rights and enforcement goals, but there is powerful evidence indicating that a combination of alternatives could provide far greater possibilities to do so than current efforts of the Trump administration.

In light of both the enormous human costs of current practices not to mention their failure to achieve immigration control objectives it is incumbent upon policymakers to consider alternatives to detention.

In fact, in the face of public outrage and legal obstacles to the zero tolerance policy, the Trump administration is already implementing one alternative of sorts the use of ankle monitoring bracelets to track immigrant parents encountered after entry and who have with them children under five. But rather than moving forward in an ad hoc manner, the administration would be better served by a more coordinated effort to implement alternatives.

Procedures To Reunite Families

Authorities separated families without a plan to reunite them, resulting in numerous cases of parents and children having no contact since being forcefully separated. There were numerous reports of separated parents not being able to locate or contact their children due to lack of a proper system in place.


Representative Pramila Jayapal met with dozens of mothers separated from their children, and reported that in some cases, some Border Patrol agents allegedly told the mothers that “their families don’t exist anymore”. In May 2018, a Honduran man, Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, committed suicide after his 3-year-old son was forcibly taken and separated from him by Border Patrol Agents. The man had crossed the Rio Grande with his son and his wife and turned himself and his family in to authorities to ask for asylum.

Despite numerous reports of separations in which parents were not given information about their children, Senator James Lankford, speaking on Meet the Press blamed “media that’s not been responsible with this” for reports of difficulties locating parents or children. Calling the government personnel working for the various agencies that have been handling the separations “professionals”, he said, “They know where every child is to be able to connect them to their parent or their relative that came.”

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Executive Order To Suspend New Separations And Detain Families

On June 20, 2018, Trump signed Executive Order 13841, titled Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation, that restricts family separation but maintains many of the key components of the Administrations immigration policy. The Order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to maintain custody of parents and children jointly, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations. It also instructs the Justice Department to attempt to overturn the Flores Agreement, which limited the time for holding children and families with children to twenty days, allowing children to be detained indefinitely. The order directs other agencies, including the Pentagon to create or procure spaces to house the family units, however the family unit will not be maintained if there is fear for the childs welfare.

At the signing ceremony, Trump said, Were going to have strong, very strong borders but we are going to keep the families together. I didnt like the sight or the feeling of families being separated. Trump emphasised that families would be kept together, yet zero tolerance would continue.


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The Trump Administrations Lack Of Transparency

A Cruel New Low: Trumps

Even after it was clear that thousands of children had been separated from their parents, the Trump Administration continued to deny that this was happening.

On June 18, 2018, Kirstjen Nielsen said, we do not have a policy of separating families at the border, period. She continues to lie to the American people and to Congress about the details of the Administrations family separation policy.

The Trump Administration provided no answers to basic questions from members of Congress, federal judges, public defenders, members of the media, and even the federal prosecutors and DHS personnel who were tasked with applying this new policy. Members of Congress and members of the media were sometimes denied access to detention centers where children are being held. When they are allowed access, they were often not allowed to bring cameras or other recording devices. At one point, when Senator Jeff Merkley asked to tour a detention facility, agents there called the police and told him to leave.

It is not clear what the policies are for taking care of these children, whether immigration agents in the detention centers are qualified to do so, or what the process is for trying to reunite children with their parents. Even after the courts officially ended the zero-tolerance policy, the Administration kept quiet about the thousands of children that had not yet been reported as separated.

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How Have These Offenses Been Prosecuted In The Past

Although these offenses have been federal crimes for many years, for most of that time, the US government usually prosecuted people only if they had serious prior criminal convictions and had reentered after being deported, or if they were repeat offenders people who had reentered repeatedly after deportation.

In 2005, a zero-tolerance program called Operation Streamline was implemented in Del Rio, Texas, to prosecute people with little or no prior criminal history, as well as first-time migrants. Operation Streamline, with slight variations in prosecutorial policies and procedures, was then implemented in other sectors along the southwest border, with the exception of San Diego. The current zero-tolerance policy has brought Streamline to San Diego for the first time.

After the advent of Streamline in 2005, the number of prosecutions for illegal entry and reentry began to soar.

As the graph from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse shows, immigration prosecutions dropped after 2013 but remained significantly higher than before 2005. In 2016, even before the Trump administration announced its zero-tolerance policy, immigration prosecutions the vast majority involving illegal entry and illegal reentry constituted 52 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions.

As stated previously, even under these increased prosecutions, parents traveling with children were generally not prosecuted until recently.

Suspension Of Detentions For New Cases

On June 21, 2018, The Washington Post reported that Customs and Border Protection had suspended criminal referrals for parents arriving across the border with their children. At the time, Justice Department officials said the zero tolerance policy remained in force and they would continue to process all adults for illegal entry.

On June 25, US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced a temporary suspension of detaining migrant adults who traveled with children. In this context, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained that the government was “out of resources” and could not hold all the undocumented families coming across the US-Mexico border.

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