On Tuesday, the Justice Department rescinded a Trump-era memo that had established a zero-tolerance enforcement policy for the migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson had issued the new memo to the federal prosecutors across the nation, saying that the department would return to its longstanding previous policy and instructing prosecutors to act on the merits of individual cases.
Wilkinson wrote that being consistent with this longstanding principle of making individualized assessments in criminal cases, he is rescinding the policy directive or immediate effect. He also said that the department’s principles have long emphasized the decisions about bringing the criminal charges should not only involve a determination that a federal offense has been committed ad that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction, but should also take into consideration other individualized factors that include personal circumstances and criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, and also the probable sentence, or other consequences that would result from a conviction.
The zero-tolerance policy meant that any adult being caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry because children cannot be jailed with their family members, so the families were separated and the children were taken into custody by the Health and Human Services.
While zero tolerance is in part symbolic, but it undoes the Trump’s administrations massively unpopular policy that is responsible for the separation of more than 5500 children from their parents t the U.S.-Mexico border. Most of the families have not been prosecuted under zero-tolerance since 2018 when the separations were halted, even though the separations have continued on a smaller scale. Practically, the ending of the policy will mostly affect the single men who have entered the country illegally.
Wilkinson wrote in the memo that while the policies may change, their mission remains the same that is to seek justice under the law.
President Joe Biden has also been issued an executive order to undo some of Trump’s restrictive policies but the previous administration has so much altered the immigration landscape that it might take some time to untangle the major changes. Some of the parents who were separated from their children have been deported. And, now the advocates for the families have called on Biden to allow those families to reunite in the United States.
The zero-tolerance policy was one of the several increasingly restrictive policies being aimed at discouraging the migrants from coming to the Southern border. It was a disaster where no system had been created to reunite with the families. According to some reports, the policy led to a $227 million funding shortfall where the children suffered lasting emotional damage from the separations.
The policy began o April 6, 2018, under an executive order and was halted on June 20, 2018, when the federal judge had ordered the families to be reunited.