Federal authorities will stop prosecuting parents who attempt to cross the border illegally with their children until Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) establishes adequate detention centers where families can be held together, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The move marks a swift about-face from the executive order President Trump signed Wednesday, which indicated his administration would continue its “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all individuals who cross the border illegally while establishing family-detention centers where families can be held while parents await their hearings.
“We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody,” a senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) official told the Post.
The unnamed official further explained that many adults and children currently in federal custody will be released due to the lack of adequate family-detention centers where they could be held together in compliance with Trump’s executive order.
Senior CPB officials were unaware of the content of Wednesday’s executive order until it was released, according to the anonymous official quoted by the Post. The decision to stop prosecuting parents until family-detention centers were established was reportedly made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Adults without children who cross the border illegally will continue to be prosecuted without exception, and CPB officials plan to watch migration patterns to determine if the failure to prosecute parents leads to a surge in family crossings.
“We’re going to watch closely and do what we need to do,” the official said.