In April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would adopt a zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting all migrants for unauthorized border crossings, including those legally seeking asylum. This policy officially instituted practices that separated children from their families. Within the first six weeks of this zero-tolerance policy in place, the number of children separated from their families reached 2,300.
On Wednesday, June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that will allow families to stay together, but for an “indefinite” period of time in detention while the parents are criminally prosecuted. The executive order did not end the zero-tolerance policy put in place by Attorney General Sessions. Under the executive order, these prosecutions will continue to occur, and now families will be detained together – meaning that asylum seekers, including children, will still be treated as criminals and detained indefinitely. There is still no plan for reuniting children already separated with their families.
On June 26, 2018, a San Diego-based U.S. District Court Judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the federal government to reunite migrant parents with children separated as a result of the Trump Administration's zero-tolerance policy. The injunction requires that nearly all children younger than five years old be reunited with their parents within 14 days and that older children be reunited within 30 days. While we applaud this court order, this crisis will not be resolved until the Administration rescinds the zero-tolerance policy and reunites all of the more than 2,000 children who've already been separated from their families.
Congress and the Administration must act immediately to terminate the zero-tolerance policy and take swift action to reunite the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their families.