Story at a glance

  • In 2018, the Trump administration instituted a “zero tolerance” immigration policy that called for the criminal prosecutions of adults illegally crossing the southern border.
  • The move resulted in the separation of thousands of families as parents were sent to jails and children placed in shelters.
  • In an interview with Reuters Tuesday, Sessions defended the prosecutions of adults illegally crossing the southern border, saying those traveling with a child shouldn’t be given immunity, but he admitted the administration mismanaged the migrant children.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently expressed regret that the Trump administration was unable to quickly reunite migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under his watch. 

In 2018, the Trump administration instituted a “zero tolerance” immigration policy that called for the criminal prosecutions of adults illegally crossing the southern border. The move resulted in the separation of thousands of families as parents were sent to jails and children placed in shelters.


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In an interview with Reuters Tuesday, Sessions defended the prosecutions of adults illegally crossing the southern border, saying those traveling with a child shouldn’t be given immunity, but admitted the administration mismanaged migrant children. 

“It was unfortunate, very unfortunate, that somehow the government was not able to manage those children in a way that they could be reunited properly,” Sessions told Reuters. 

“It turned out to be more of a problem than I think any of us imagined it would be,” he added. 

Following widespread criticism of the policy, former President Trump effectively abandoned it several months later, and a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite migrant parents with children taken from them. 

In January, a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General found Sessions and other top DOJ officials knew the policy would result in child separations but pushed for it anyway. The report also found the attorney general’s office put the policy in place without an adequate understanding of the family separation process and the relevant legal requirements, particularly a requirement that says children could not be in custody for longer than 72 hours. 

As of Wednesday, more than 500 children have still not been reunited with their parents. Last week, a committee of lawyers tasked with reuniting the families said more than half of those parents have likely been deported, complicating efforts to locate them. 

President Biden earlier this month signed an executive order establishing a new task force to identify and reunify separated families. 


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Published on Mar 03, 2021