Authorities Abandon 'Zero-Tolerance' for Immigrant Families - NBC New York
Immigration in America

Immigration in America

Full coverage of immigration issues in the U.S.

Authorities Abandon 'Zero-Tolerance' for Immigrant Families

The administration's policy of criminally prosecuting anyone caught illegally crossing the border remains in effect

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    Protesters in Tornillo, TX, Call For Trump To Reunite Separated Families

    Protesters gathered at a tent city in Tornillo, Tx, to call for the president to reunite separated children with their families.

    (Published Sunday, June 24, 2018)

    The nation's top border enforcement official acknowledged Monday that authorities have abandoned, for now, the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy toward immigrant families after the president ordered an end to the separation of parents and children who cross the southern border.

    The comments by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan came shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the administration's tactics in a speech in Nevada and asserted that many children were brought to the border by violent gang members.

    Together, their remarks added to the nationwide confusion as mothers and fathers struggled to reunite families that were split up by the government and sometimes sent to different parts of the country.

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    President Donald Trump called for the immediate deportation of migrants arriving at the U.S. border, tweeting "When somebody comes in we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came." Immigration advocates say that may be illegal, arguing that migrants coming to claim asylum have a right to a hearing.

    (Published Monday, June 25, 2018)

    A mother from Guatemala wiped tears from her eyes Monday as she told reporters in El Paso, Texas, about her 4-year-old son being taken away after they crossed the border.

    The boy ended up at a shelter in New York. When the mother contacted a social worker to speak with her son, she was told that the child was angry and didn't want to talk because he believed his mother had abandoned him.

    The mother was one of 32 parents released from federal custody while they pursue asylum cases. Speaking Spanish and all wearing ankle bracelets, the parents said they have not been told when they will see their sons and daughters again.

    Addressing reporters in Texas, McAleenan said he stopped sending cases of parents charged with illegally entering the country to prosecutors after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to cease the separations.

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    Tempers hit a boiling point Saturday outside of the Border Patrol station in McAllen, when protesters saw a bus full of migrant families trying to drive by. The demonstrators gathered in the streets and blocked traffic.

    (Published Sunday, June 24, 2018)

    The commissioner and Sessions insisted that the administration's policy remains in effect, but the cases cannot be prosecuted because parents cannot be separated from their children. McAleenan said he is working on a plan to resume prosecutions.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that the administration's reversal was only temporary because the government is running out of resources.

    "We're going to run out of space," she said. "We're going to run out of resources to keep people together."

    Speaking at a school-safety conference in Reno, Sessions cast the children as victims of a broken immigration system" and urged Congress to act.

    While hundreds of protesters rallied outside a hotel-casino, the attorney general said more than 80 percent of children crossing the border arrive alone, without parents or guardians, and are "often sent with a paid smuggler. We can only guess how many never make it to our border during that dangerous journey."

    Democrats Visit Detention Center In McAllen, TexasDemocrats Visit Detention Center In McAllen, Texas

    A delegation comprised of 25 Democratic members of Congress visited a detention center in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday and criticized the Trump Administration over its immigration policies.>

    (Published Saturday, June 23, 2018)

    He claimed the MS-13 gang "is recruiting children who were sent here as unaccompanied minors, and some are brought to help replenish the gang. And they are terrorizing immigrant schools and communities from Los Angeles to Louisville to Long Island to Boston. They are able to do so because we do not have a secure southwest border."

    He said five children had been found at the border carrying a combined 35 pounds of fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid drug blamed for an epidemic of overdose deaths nationwide.

    Drug cartels, Sessions said, "take advantage of our generosity and ... use children to smuggle their drugs into our country as well."

    Just outside the building where Sessions spoke, more than 200 protesters opposed to the administration's immigration policies blocked a busy road. The coalition of civil rights, religious and union activists carried signs and drums and were joined by a mariachi band. Some sat in a busy roadway for while police diverted traffic around them.

    No arrests were reported.

    Mass. Dad Reunited With Kids Detained 5 Weeks in Michigan FacilityMass. Dad Reunited With Kids Detained 5 Weeks in Michigan Facility

    A Guatemalan man living in Westborough, Massachusetts, has had a long few months. Elmer Oliva’s wife and kids were detained at the border and separated as part of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. His children were sent to a facility in Michigan. 

    Oliva has been fighting to get his family back together, and he’s had some success. He was reunited Tuesday with his 17-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. The fate of his wife, who remains detained in Texas.

    (Published Friday, June 22, 2018)

    McAleenan's remarks follow an announcement last week by the federal public defender's office in El Paso that federal prosecutors would no longer bring criminal charges against parents entering the U.S. if they have their child with them.

    Amid the confusion, some Democratic members of Congress reiterated their frustrations that the Trump administration had not released its plan for reunifying families.

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was among those who toured a shelter at the Tornillo border crossing in West Texas.

    "I think there is very, very powerful consensus on both sides of the aisle that reunification should be done immediately," Blumenthal said. "These stories are gut-wrenching and heartbreaking of children 6 and 7 years old, separated from their parents, not know where they are and the parents not knowing where their children are."

    U.S. defense officials said the administration had chosen two military bases in Texas to house detained migrants. The officials identified the bases as Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about a pending announcement.

    As many as 2,300 children were separated from their migrant parents from the time the administration adopted the zero-tolerance policy until June 9, officials have said.

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    After repeatedly calling on Congress to solve the immigration problem, President Donald Trump now wants lawmakers to delay immigration reform until after the midterm elections in November. 

    (Published Friday, June 22, 2018)

    The temporary shelter at Tornillo was close to its 360-person capacity. Reporters were allowed Monday to briefly visit the shelter, where more than 320 children ages 13 to 17 are being held in air conditioned tents. A facility administrator told reporters that the main complaint he hears from children on site is that the tents get too cold sometimes.

    About half were from Guatemala, and 23 of the children had been separated from adults who accompanied them across the border.

    Reporters were not allowed to enter any tents holding children. Two girls who stopped briefly in front of reporters said that they were doing well.

    MSNBC obtained the first non-government video footage from inside a facility that serves children who have been taken from their parents by the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" border policy. The video was shot surreptitiously inside a facility late last week by a worker who has since quit her job there.


    The exact process to reunite families has been unclear because migrants are first stopped by Customs and Border Protection. Then children are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, while adults are detained through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is under the Department of Homeland Security.

    Justice Department officials have asked a federal judge to amend a class-action settlement that governs how children are treated in immigration custody. Right now, children can only be detained with their families for 20 days. Trump administration officials are seeking to detain them together indefinitely as their cases progress.

    Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Ken Ritter, Scott Sonner, Susan Montoya Bryan, John L. Mone and Robert Burns contributed to this report.