Biden rescinds Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy that enabled family separation

“The Biden administration has ended former President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which provided the underpinnings for family separation by seeking to prosecute every migrant who crossed the border without authorization.

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop the separations in 2018 — after more than 5,000 families were separated. Attorneys still can’t find the parents of more than 600 children; many of the parents were deported back to their home countries, while others are believed to be in the US. Biden has promised to create a task force to work on family reunification, and an announcement is expected later this week.

The Department of Justice issued a memo on Tuesday night rescinding the policy, which was implemented in April 2018 under then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Acting US Attorney General Monty Wilkinson wrote Tuesday that the policy was “inconsistent” with the DOJ’s mandate to consider individual circumstances — including criminal history, the seriousness of the offense and the potential sentence or other consequences of conviction — when making decisions to charge people with the crime of crossing the border without authorization.

Trump officials claimed that they had no choice under the zero-tolerance policy but to prosecute and detain the adults while sending the children to other facilities designed to administer their care. But the officials ignored the possibility of releasing the families from detention together, as prior administrations had done.”

“The Trump administration started separating families in immigration detention back in 2017, beginning with a pilot program in El Paso, Texas. The practice was later expanded along the border in the spring of 2018, when Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy.

Parents were sent to immigration detention to await deportation proceedings. Their children, meanwhile, were sent to separate facilities designed to hold children and, in some cases, released to other family members in the US or to foster homes. Previous administrations, in most cases, would have simply released the families from detention together if there was insufficient room in family detention facilities.”

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