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New “Zero Tolerance” Policy Announced for Illegal Entry

On May 7, the LA Times reports that Attorney General Sessions announced a new “zero tolerance policy for persons entering the United States illegally. Under this policy, all persons entering the United States illegally will be charged with a crime. The story also warns that as part of the prosecutions, families could be separated.

Sessions also said that families who illegally cross the border may be separated after their arrest, with children sent to juvenile shelters while their parents are sent to adult detention facilities. Until now, border agents tried to keep parents and their children at the same detention site.

This new policy is a dramatic change from the current practice of only criminal charging a percentage of persons detained crossing the border.

So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol officers have detained about 288,000 people. But only about 30,000 of those were charged with a crime for crossing the border, and only about 12,000 were charged with the more serious crime of reentry, which is a felony. The rest were sent back across the border.

The government is assigning resources to implement the change.

The Justice Department last week announced plans to send 35 additional prosecutors to Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico to help handle the expected surge, along with reassigning 18 immigration judges to speed the progress of asylum claims.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which handles the shelters for migrant children, also is preparing to take in many more cases.

A May 14 LA Times article add some more statistics regarding prosecutions.

Nowhere are the changes more noticeable than in California. In the southern federal district in San Diego, 1,275 cases were filed in the first three months of this year. Prosecutors plan to boost criminal immigration filings to about 1,000 per month, according to district data and attorneys at the Federal Defenders of San Diego, who have been notified of increasing prosecution levels by the U.S. attorney’s office.

At that pace, prosecutions could top 9,000 for the year, triple last year’s total and the most since at least since 2000, according to district data.