‘Zero tolerance’ abandoned for immigrant families


Associated Press

MCALLEN, TEXAS

The Trump administration has scaled back a key element of its zero-tolerance immigration policy amid a global uproar over the separation of more than 2,300 migrant families, halting the practice of turning over parents to prosecutors for charges of illegally entering the country.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Monday that President Donald Trump’s order last week to stop splitting immigrant families at the border required a temporary halt to prosecuting parents and guardians, unless they had criminal history or the child’s welfare was in question. He insisted the White House’s zero-tolerance policy toward illegal entry remained intact.

McAleenan’s comments came shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the administration’s tactics in a speech in Nevada and asserted that many children were brought to the border by violent gang members.

Together, their remarks added to the nationwide confusion as mothers and fathers struggled to reunite families that were split up by the government and sometimes sent to different parts of the country.

Families are growing increasingly frustrated in trying to reunite with their children after weeks apart.

A mother from Guatemala wiped tears from her eyes Monday as she told reporters in El Paso, Texas, about her 4-year-old son being taken away after they crossed the border.

The boy ended up at a shelter in New York. When the mother contacted a social worker to speak with her son, she was told that the child was angry and didn’t want to talk because he believed his mother had abandoned him.

The mother was one of five parents who described their ordeals to reporters in El Paso. Speaking Spanish and all wearing ankle bracelets, the parents said they have not been told when they will see their sons and daughters again.

Addressing reporters in Texas, McAleenan said he stopped sending cases of parents charged with illegally entering the country to prosecutors “within hours” after Trump signed an executive order last week to cease the separations.

The commissioner and Sessions insisted that the administration’s policy remains in effect, even though immigrant parents are no longer being prosecuted under the new guidelines McAleenan said he is working on a plan to resume prosecutions.

“We can work on a plan where adults who bring kids across, who violate our laws, who risk their lives at the border could be prosecuted without an extended separation from their children,” he said. “We’re looking at how to implement that now.”

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