Justice Department Officials Knew 'Zero Tolerance' Border Policy Would Lead To Family Separation

Illustration for article titled Justice Department Officials Knew 'Zero Tolerance' Border Policy Would Lead To Family Separation
Photo: Alex Wong / Staff (Getty Images)

The New York Times has obtained a draft investigation report on the Trump administration’s former “zero tolerance” immigration policy that led to the separation of countless migrant children from their parents with no clear plan on how to reunite the families. The 86-page draft investigation report, written by DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, cites over 45 interviews with government officials, as well as emails and other documents.


The draft report shows that top officials in the U.S. Justice Department were “a driving force” behind the family separation policy. Although then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to distance himself from the “zero tolerance” policy, the report claims that Sessions and other Justice Department officials knew the policy would lead to the separation of migrant families, and hoped that practice would deter undocumented immigrants from coming to the U.S. in the future.

“The department’s single-minded focus on increasing prosecutions came at the expense of careful and effective implementation of the policy, especially with regard to prosecution of family-unit adults and the resulting child separations,” the draft report said.

After U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico pushed back on the order to prosecute all undocumented immigrants, expressing their concern about the welfare of the children, Sessions reportedly told them: “We need to take away children.” In one particularly chilling story, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein told U.S. attorneys that they should not have declined to prosecute a case under the grounds that the children who would be separated from their parents were barely more than infants.

Despite claims that they thought migrant parents would be prosecuted rapidly and reunited with their children within hours of separation, a memo in the draft report shows that Justice Department officials knew that sentences for adults ranged from 3-14 days, making it almost a certainty that these families would be separate for considerable amounts of time.

In fact, the draft report claims that in the meeting where Sessions demanded that Customs and Border Protection begin referring all cases of migrant families for prosecution, he actually wrote up comments arguing for the necessity of the “zero tolerance” policy.

“We must vigorously enforce our criminal immigration laws to ensure that there are consequences for illegal actions and to deter future illegal immigration,” Mr. Sessions planned to say, according to the draft report. “That means that an illegal alien should not get a free pass just because he or she crosses the border illegally with a child.”


Ah yes, this is the compassionate tone of a man who clearly cares very deeply about the families whose lives he was planning to rip apart. The same man who cited a verse from the New Testament as justification for this exact family separation policy.

Horowitz had reportedly been preparing to release his report since late summer, though the internal process through which officials whose behavior is under scrutiny will likely delay its release until after the November Presidential elections.... How very convenient.

Freelance writer & night blogger at Jezebel. Lover of television, astrology, and sandwiches.



Ah the Keebler Elf was just a big a douchebag as the Trumpanzee....color me shocked.

Where the fuck do they keep digging up these stooges?