Family separation at the borders under Trump’s “Zero Tolerance Policy”
Former President Donald Trump never agreed with the idea of offering immigration benefits to people who decide to cross the US borders without legal documentation. In his view, offering undocumented immigrants a path to legal residence, whether temporary or permanent, or American citizenship would only encourage and increase irregular immigration, which would tremendously affect the economy and become a burden on taxpayers and the federal government.
Thus, over the past four years, the Trump administration implemented several policies aimed at reducing irregular immigration. With this, we refer to rules and strategies to increase surveillance at the borders and detain immigrants who managed to cross them and currently reside within the US undocumented.
The “Zero Tolerance Policy” was one of the Trump administration’s action plans to curb illegal immigration. This policy states that immigrants who are detained while trying to cross the borders without prior authorization must face criminal prosecution as they are violating local law. However, many adult immigrants try to cross the US borders with minors, but since minors cannot face legal charges, this policy led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents, hundreds of them under 5 years of age.
The Trump administration officially implemented this policy in early 2018, but since it unleashed a wave of social unrest, it was only active until June 2018. However, the Trump administration conducted a secret “Zero Tolerance Policy” pilot program between 2017 and 2018 to test its effectiveness, which caused even more controversy and discontent among the American population.
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Jeff Sessions regrets the separation of immigrant families under his supervision
Then US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, was the person in charge of introducing the “Zero Tolerance Policy” to the American public in 2018. Sessions served as Attorney General from February 9, 2017 to November 7, 2018 and was leading the border project that led to the separation of thousands of immigrant minors from their parents.
Currently, there are still more than 500 minors who have not been able to find their parents after more than three years, since the Trump administration carried out the secret pilot program. Agencies in charge of Biden’s family reunification project state that the parents of these children possibly faced deportation proceedings under the Trump administration.
Adding to that, in January 2021, the DOJ (Department of Justice) OIG (Office of the Inspector General) released a report that revealed that Jeff Sessions failed to properly coordinate the reunification plan after separating immigrant minors from their family members.
On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, Sessions stated that “It was unfortunate, very unfortunate, that somehow the government was not able to manage those children in a way that they could be reunited properly (…) It turned out to be more of a problem than I think any of us imagined it would be.”
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