In April this year, Donald Trump’s administration had imposed a zero-tolerance policy to tighten the crackdown on illegal immigration at the US border.
What does the zero-tolerance policy entail?
According to a former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, who also served as a counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, the zero-tolerance policy aims to prevent people from seeking entry to American soil by imprisoning as many of these people as possible.
Imprisonment is achievable by looking at any possible criminal violations. If there are any criminal charges found, the individual entering illegally can be detained on a criminal charge.
Wu explains that prior to the policy, thousands of people in deportation proceedings would not have been in the criminal court process.
Using the zero-tolerance policy, the status of thousands of non-criminal immigration cases have changed to criminal cases simply by charging “illegal entry”. Previously, the punishment has often been nothing more than a fine and time served.
In simple terms, all immigrants who come to the United States illegally will be prosecuted.
What happens to immigrant children?
An existing policy called the “Flores settlement” limits the government’s ability to keep children in immigration detention.
The Trump administration says that in accordance with the policy, it was “forced” to separate children from families during the prosecution process.
The Flores settlement requires the federal government to place children with a close relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay,” rather than kept in custody and to keep children who are already in custody in the “least restrictive conditions” possible.
According to an article by Vox, this means that while the parents are detained in immigration detention after being criminally prosecuted for illegal entry, the children are then taken away to be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services as “unaccompanied alien children.”
Using this legal “loophole”, at least 2,300 children have been separated from their parents in the six-week period since the zero-tolerance policy was adopted.
Trump signs an executive order
Last weeks’ news cycle was consumed with the cries of immigrant children who were separated from their parents and criticisms from prominent figures, including the Pope, towards the Trump administration.
On June 20th, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to keep children and parents together.
What does it actually mean?
According to Wu, this might mean that whole families could stay incarcerated for whatever amount of time it may take to resolve the various cases of the parents. While it might seem like a good thing, Trump’s order really could just put more people in jail over immigration issues.
What’s even more worrying is that federal officials are struggling to reunite over 2,300 children with their parents, as some of whom have already been deported.
Sources: CNN, Vox, New York Times