WASHINGTON (AP) – The Justice Department on Tuesday rescinded a memorandum issued by the administration of former President Donald Trump that established a “zero tolerance” policy for migrants crossing the southern United States border illegally, Thousands of families were separated as a result.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued the new memorandum, stating that the department would revert to its previous policy and instruct federal prosecutors around the country to act as each individual case warrant.
Wilkinson wrote, “In keeping with this long-standing theory of personal assessment in criminal cases, I am defending with immediate effect,” Wilkinson wrote.
The officer noted that the department’s principles have long emphasized that decisions about filing criminal charges should not only include a determination that a federal crime has been committed and that obtaining and maintaining evidence Admissible evidence is likely to be sufficient, but also take into account other personal factors, such as personal circumstances and criminal history, severity of the crime, and possible punishment or other consequences that would result from a conviction.
The “zero tolerance” policy meant that any adult who was illegally detained after crossing the border would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because the children could not be reunited with their relatives, the migrant families were separated and the children were taken into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which takes care of the children who are bordered by an adult Do not cross.
Although the end of “zero tolerance” is partly symbolic, it foreshadows the highly unpopular policy implemented by the Trump administration responsible for separating more than 5,500 children from their parents on the US-Mexico border. Most families have not been prosecuted under the policy since 2018, when segregation was suspended, although these have continued on a smaller scale. In practice, the end of the policy will primarily affect men who have entered the nation, alone and illegally.
The procedures were significantly slowed after the Trump administration declared a health emergency related to the coronovirus epidemic, which allows Mexico and Central Americans to be expelled immediately without enforcing immigration laws.
“Although policies may change, our mission is the same: seeking justice according to the law,” Wilkinson wrote in the memo, obtained by The Associated Press.
President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to undo some of Trump’s restrictive policies, but the previous administration has changed the immigration landscape so much that it will take a long time to uncover all the major changes. Some parents who were separated from their children were deported. Family advocates have asked Biden to allow those families to reunite in the United States.
Jeff Sessions, then Attorney General, along with Trump and other highly-placed officials in his administration, were determined to curb immigration. The “zero tolerance” policy was one of several restrictive policies aimed at preventing migrants to the southern border. The Trump administration also significantly reduced the number of refugees allowed in the United States and the number of refugees sheltering at the border through a combination of executive orders and regulatory changes.
Politics was a disaster. No system was created to reconnect children with their families. A general report released a few weeks ago by an inspector general of the Department of Justice found that the policy led to $ 227 million in funding. Children suffered permanent emotional damage as a result of the separation, and the policy was called inhumane by world leaders.
The policy came into force on April 6, 2018, under an executive order that was issued without notice to other federal agencies that must manage the policy, including the US Marshals Service and the Department of Health and Human Services. It was suspended on June 20, 2018 and a federal judge ordered the families to reunite.
The Inspector General’s report also found that Sessions and other highly-placed officials knew that the children would be separated and encouraged under the policy. Justice Department officials ignored staff concerns about the implementation of the policy and did not bother to set up a family tracking system to reestablish them. Some children are still separated from their parents.
Associated Press journalist Eric Tucker contributed to this report.