The Trump administration’s hands are tied when it comes to separating children from their parents after families cross the U.S. border illegally, according to President Donald Trump.
During a roundtable on sanctuary cities Wednesday, Trump blamed Democrats for his administration’s decision to implement a “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented immigrants that will see more families separated, saying “it’s a horrible thing” but that “Democrats gave us that law”.
“The Democrats gave us that law. It’s a horrible thing we have to break up families,” Trump said during a meeting with California officials who oppose sanctuary city policies.
"They gave us that law and they don’t want to do anything about it," he added. "They’ll leave it like that because they don’t want to make any changes. And now you’re breaking up families because of the Democrats. It’s terrible."
However, Trump is incorrect that Democrats have forced his hand on the issue.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced earlier this month that every single illegal border crossing will now be prosecuted – even for family units and without considering individual cases.
Upping the number of prosecutions will by default up the number of families split apart, as children of those prosecuted will be placed in the care of Health and Human Services.
When an asylum seeker crosses into the US illegally, she commits a federal misdemeanor. Under previous administrations, the Department of Homeland Security usually processed her asylum case first rather than referring her to the Department of Justice for federal prosecution. Even if DHS referred her for prosecution, DOJ wouldn’t usually bother to actually prosecute her before her asylum case was complete.
But Sessions, in particular, is convinced that many of these asylum claims are fraudulent, brought by “dirty immigration lawyers” to gum up the system. So DOJ and DHS have stepped up their efforts to detain as many asylum seekers as possible and deport as many of them as quickly as possible, in the name of ending “catch and release.”
To be sure, the Trump administration is not the first to separate undocumented immigrants from their children; however, it is the Trump administration that has opted to make the separation of undocumented families official government policy – not Democrats.