According to the report, officials at the department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services “did not plan for the potential increase in the number of children separated from their parent or legal guardian as a result of the Attorney General’s (Jeff Sessions) April 2018 ‘zero tolerance’ memo.”
A group of more than 300 Central American migrants – remnants of what started as a more than 1,000-person caravan in Tapachula, Mexico – arrived at Tijuana’s border in April, many hoping to cross into the United States to seek asylum. Their arrival incited the wrath of the Trump administration.
The resulting confusion along the border led to misinformation among separated parents who did not know why they had been taken from their children or how to reach them, longer detention for children at border facilities meant for short-term stays, and difficulty in identifying and reuniting families. And backlogs at ports of entry may have pushed some into illegally crossing the U.S-Mexico border, the report found.
The policy, which called for the criminal prosecution of anyone crossing the border illegally, and led to the separation of more than twenty-five hundred children from their parents, has coincided with a broader effort to dismantle the U.S. asylum system. Yet the government never had a plan for keeping track of the separated parents and children once they were in custody, and, even after a federal judge in San Diego, Dana Sabraw, ordered the government to reunite them, it struggled to comply. “I definitely haven’t seen contrition,” an Administration official, who told me about the weekly meetings, said. “But there was frustration with the incompetence of how zero tolerance got implemented.
U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty explained in a written opinion why he ordered Pablo Villavicencio freed last week from a detention center in New Jersey.
This Thursday the Trump administration faces a deadline handed down earlier this summer by a United States District Court judge: reunite the children separated from their parents at the border by federal law enforcement.
The health department has quietly dipped into tens of millions of dollars to pay for the consequences of President Donald Trump’s border policy, angering advocates who want the money spent on medical research, rural health programs and other priorities.
Trump is right that ejecting people with potentially legitimate asylum claims from the country without due process would, in fact, be a violation of U.S. law, but he’s wrong about the U.S. being the only country that has such rules—the right to fair hearing for asylum is a principle of international human rights law as well.
The lawsuit — believed to be the first to challenge the administration’s policy to criminally prosecute all adults suspected of illegally crossing the U.S-Mexico border — adds to the legal woes facing the Trump administration over its immigration policies.
Twenty-one lawyers for the Defense Department “will work full time, assisting in prosecuting reactive border immigration cases, with a focus on misdemeanor improper entry and felony illegal re-entry cases,” the department said in a statement. The assignment is to last for about six months.