Candidate Donald Trump made the issue of border security a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. Now the latest salvo in the Trump administration’s ongoing campaign to discourage illegal crossings is that every person caught illegally crossing the border will now face federal prosecution, regardless of whether they have their children with them. In the past, families crossing the border would be detained together, charged with a misdemeanor federal offense, and then later released rather than prosecuting them.
This policy will also apply to those seeking asylum that do not go to the official U.S. port of entries to do so. Moreover, those later granted asylum could still have that federal conviction on their criminal record. Critics are noting that prosecuting immigrants before they are allowed to pursue claims for asylum may be against the international treaty of obligations. Additional policies will need to be enacted to address this specific situation.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen officially enacted this change on Friday, May 4. The change also corresponds with Attorney General Jeff Sessions “Zero Tolerance” policy to pursue criminal charges against anyone caught crossing the border illegally. Sessions reiterated this policy on Monday, May 7 during an appearance at a gathering of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies in Arizona. Sessions also added that his department would try to process as many cases “as humanly possible.”
While the president continues to claim that U.S. borders, particularly the one with Mexico, is “under siege,” a recent article points out that illegal immigration numbers are historically law. Nonetheless, this administration continues to aggressively pursue new ways to block entry for potential immigrants and asylum seekers.
An attorney with experience handling immigration issues will be a tremendous asset to those trying to navigate this new policy.