Children are likely to be separated from parents illegally crossing the border under new Trump administration policy
All immigrants who cross the border illegally will be charged with a crime under a new “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said Monday, launching a crackdown that could overwhelm already-clogged detention facilities and immigration courts with hundreds of thousands of new cases.
Sessions also said that families who illegally cross the border may be separated after their arrest, with children sent to juvenile shelters while their parents are sent to adult detention facilities. Until now, border agents tried to keep parents and their children at the same detention site.
The new policy is expected to send a flood of deportation cases — and legal challenges — into federal courts. It also could put thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and children in shelters, and is likely to strain an immigration system that has struggled to keep up with a surge in enforcement under President Trump. Until now, individuals apprehended while crossing illegally were often simply bused back over the border without charges. That was especially common for people without criminal records or previous immigration violations.
“This border is not open. Don’t come unlawfully…. Make your claim. Wait your turn,” Sessions said Monday, speaking to reporters at Border Field State Park, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border near Imperial Beach in San Diego County. “We cannot take everyone on this planet who is in a difficult situation.”
“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said earlier Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
Families seeking asylum and presenting themselves at official U.S. border crossings will be allowed to stay together as they seek protected status, according to a U.S. official familiar with the new policy.
But asylum seekers caught crossing illegally will be charged with a crime and their children sent to refugee shelters, even as agents conduct the legally required interview to evaluate their asylum claims.
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