Border agents suspend prosecution referrals for illegal border crossers

Border agents suspend prosecution referrals for illegal border crossers
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Border patrol agents have stopped referring adult immigrants who cross the southern U.S. border illegally for criminal prosecution, raising questions about the future of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Kevin McAleenan, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he ordered his staff to halt referrals after President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE signed an executive order last week to stop the separation of migrant families.

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McAleenan said the zero tolerance policy is still in effect, but immigrants can’t be criminally prosecuted in the meantime because Trump halted the separation of families. 

He added that he is developing a plan to resume prosecutions of those who enter the country illegally, the AP reported.

The Department of Justice implemented the controversial policy in April. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy MORE said immigrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. As a result of the policy, children would be separated from parents who were taken into custody.

Amid backlash from both sides of the aisle, Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to stop family separations despite repeatedly claiming only Congress could address the issue.

The Department of Homeland Security has since confirmed it knows the location of each of the more than 2,000 children separated as a result of the policy and is working to reunite them with their families. However, the department did not lay out a timeline for when that might occur.