17:34, May 07 142 0 theguardian.com

2018-05-07 17:34:04
US to tighten border rules and separate children from parents

The Trump administration will increase criminal prosecutions of parents entering the United States illegally and place their children in protective custody as part of efforts to tighten immigration enforcement, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official.

Under the new policy, parents caught crossing the border illegally will be separated from their children and criminally prosecuted.

“Those apprehended will be sent directly to federal court under the custody of the US Marshals Service, and their children will be transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement,” the DHS official said in an email.

The policy, which the official said was signed on Friday, formalizes plans that have been under discussion for more than a year.

Reuters first reported the government’s idea to separate parents and children apprehended at the border in March 2017. A month later, the administration said it was no longer considering the policy because of a drop in apprehensions of families at the US southern border with Mexico.

Shortly after Trump took office, pledging a hard line against illegal immigration, border arrests fell. Apprehensions, however, are again on the rise and reaching levels seen during the administration of Barack Obama, frustrating Trump.

“Illegal immigration must end!” he tweeted on Friday.

Families seeking asylum should turn themselves into authorities so their petitions can be processed instead of attempting to cross illegally, the DHS official said.

Currently, border crossers are often deported after their apprehension without being charged criminally.

Immigration advocates say that family separations for criminal prosecutions and other circumstances have already been happening for months. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in February to challenge the practice.

In April, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, announced a “zero tolerance” policy for prosecutions of all illegal entry into the United States, and cases have already begun ticking up. The DHS said that there have been about 30,000 prosecution referrals since the start of the 2018 fiscal year in October, up from 18,642 prosecutions for the entire 2017 fiscal year.

Topics