DOJ officials blame Trump for child separation under zero-tolerance policy
Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF
Leadership officials blamed President Donal Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy on separating thousands of children from their families, according to a report by the Department of Justice Inspector General released on Thursday.
The implementation of the zero-tolerance policy directly resulted in thousands of children being separated from their families and led to various problems that have impeded reunification efforts, according to the report. Justice Department Lawyer Gene Hamilton said that the decision to implement the policy was entirely up to President Donald Trump and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“I want to make sure I’m clear that if Secretary Nielsen and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] did not want to refer people with minors, with children, then we wouldn’t have prosecuted them because they wouldn’t have referred them. And ultimately that decision would be between Secretary Nielsen and the President, and not the Department of Justice,” Hamilton said, according to the report.
Breaking: A 2.5 year investigation into the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy by the DOJ Inspector General has just been released and found DOJ officials pressured DHS into separating families in order to increase border prosecutions.
— Julia E. Ainsley (@JuliaEAinsley) January 14, 2021
Over 3,000 children were separated from their families under the policy and the department is still struggling to reunite some of the children with their families, according to the report. As of October 20, 2020, 545 children who were separated from their parents in 2017 or 2018 had yet to be reunited.
“Since leaving the department, I have often asked myself what we should have done differently, and no issue has dominated my thinking more than the zero tolerance immigration policy,” former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, NBC News reported.
“It was a failed policy that never should have been proposed or implemented. I wish we all had done better,” Rosenstein added, according to NBC News.
The report said that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions knew that fully implementing the policy would result in children being separated from adults who entered illegally for criminal referrals by the DHS. Sessions was reportedly focused on restoring “legality” at the border by decreasing the number of illegal entries.
“I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said, according to the report.
The Office of the Attorney General (OIG) put the policy into effect without comprehending the process of separating families and without demonstrated knowledge of the legal requirements, such as the detention of children limited to 72-hours, according to the report.
The zero-tolerance policy was adopted on April 6, 2018, and lasted for two months before it was eliminated by executive order, according to the report. The report found that DHS leadership and the OIG “failed to effectively prepare for, or manage the implementation” of the policy despite being responsible for its development.