The Trump administration is set to announce Monday that it is prioritizing the prosecution of parents who attempt to enter the country illegally with their children, and separating those families while their cases are being adjudicated, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The policy, which has been in effect since October but will now be formalized, is designed prevent parents from using their children to avoid immediate deportation.
“The Attorney General directed the U.S. Attorney’s offices to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for all offenses referred for prosecution,” a Homeland Security Official told the Wall Street Journal.
Previous policy dictated that parents attempting to cross the border illegally would be released into the U.S. with their children while their cases were decided. But under the new approach, those parents have been detained, while their children have been treated as if they arrived at the border alone, sent to live in shelters or with foster families while their cases are decided by immigration courts. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that some 700 children have been separated from their parents since the policy was adopted in October. The directive applies only to illegal border crossings, not to those who arrive at the border seeking asylum.
The Department of Justice plans to send additional prosecutors to the border to address the increased case load.