On June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order to end his administration’s zero-tolerance policy, in regard to prosecuting any adult who illegally crossed the border. In April 2018, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, set forth the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Under the zero-tolerance policy, any adult, including those accompanied by children, believed to have committed any crime was to be referred for prosecution by the Department of Justice. While the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy was in effect, well over 2,000 children were separated from their families at the Southwest border of the United States.
The Trump administration did not invent the prosecution of persons illegally crossing the border. Previous administrations have also enforced laws to ensure the security of the border, however the government has limited resources and is therefore granted broad discretion as to whom it chooses to prosecute. Previously, the focus had been on prosecuting those who attempted to smuggle drugs across the border or participate human trafficking. The zero-tolerance policy, of prosecuting any adult believed to have committed any crime, was the result of the Trump administration exercising its discretion to prosecute more adults for illegal entry offenses, which in turn led to more family separations.
President Trump at times expressed feeling as though his hands were tied by the previous laws and rulings on the books that forced his administration to separate families at the border. While the Supreme Court has set limits on how long juvenile aliens can be detained, this does not mandate the separation of families. The Trump administration made the conscious decision to place juvenile aliens into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while it more aggressively prosecuted the adult aliens that accompanied the children across the border. Additionally, to further complicate the situation, it appears as though the Trump administration has no clear plan to reunite the separated families.
SWBLSA extends condolences to the families who were separated at the border, and stands in support of the separated families in this tragic crisis. The family is the fundamental unit of any society. The Trump administration’s actions undermine the fundamental values of family that America was built on. America is a nation of immigrants, and SWBLSA implores President Trump and the Trump administration to see themselves in the immigrant families. America should do unto citizens of foreign nations, as America would have foreign nations do unto American citizens.