In order to discourage border crossings, the Trump administration has announced a draconian measure that will prosecute members of immigrant families who enter the United States illegally — even if that means separating children from their parents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this week.
Before this sweeping change was revealed, the Justice Department rarely targeted families for prosecution. Previously, families awaiting decision on whether they will be deported were either kept in separate family detention centers or released upon a court’s orders.
Moreover, people who cited unsafe living conditions in their native countries were sent to immigration centers, instead of being criminally prosecuted.
But it seems President Donald Trump and his team will cease all ways of moderation and practice “zero-tolerance policy,” as declared by Sessions while speaking at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego.
"I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border... If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law," he said Sessions amid a protestor’s cry.
"If you don't like that, then don't smuggle your children over the border," Sessions heartlessly added.
According to a Department of Homeland Security official, the administration will keep children of parents facing prosecution for illegal entry in protective custody, which can be a center for juveniles or with a “sponsor” who could be a relative in the United States.
In order to ramp up the process of prosecution of immigration crimes, the Justice Department hired 35 more assistant attorneys in the five federal districts that connect the U.S.-Mexico border, Sessions recently announced.
The zero-tolerance policy exempts asylum-seekers at the ports of entry, but that doesn’t mean situation is any better for them because border spectators showed red flags to members of the migrant caravan who arrived at the U.S. border by saying they were “at capacity.”
For obvious reasons, the unsympathetic plan of the administration to tear families apart sparked uproar among immigrant advocates and legal attorneys.
“If other countries treated people seeking refugee protection in this way, the United States would be appalled,” said Eleanor Acer, the protection program director at Human Rights First.
However, the unpopular measure is already in effect as Morena Mendoza Romaldo, a 30-year-old Salvadoran woman, was picked with one of her children by Border Patrol on April 27 after she crossed into the U.S. near San Diego. Though she gave a legitimate reason of fleeing sexual violence, she was nevertheless prosecuted along with 11 other caravan members.
Attorney Eric Fish has requested the court to dismiss three of the 11 caravan members’ cases by claiming his clients, including Mendoza, were wrongfully targeted for political reasons, which is a clear case of unconstitutional discrimination.
"The government can not choose its defendants on the grounds of their alleged nationality, but that's what they did here," he wrote in a court motion. "The Court should not plead for such defamatory discrimination and reject the lawsuit."
Previously, even Homeland Security officials who support stringent immigration rules were not too fond of the prospect of separating parents from children.
Moreover, previous administrations were also skeptical of such a severe measure, as they feared it could force people into the hands of dangerous smugglers or force people with legitimate claims for asylum to live in dangerous conditions in their home countries.
But the current administration apparently finds nothing wrong with tearing families apart — as long as its purpose of keeping immigrants out of the country is achieved.
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