US Attorney Jeff Sessions has said that Washington will take a stricter stance on illegal crossings at the Mexico border by separating parents from children, rather than keeping them together in detention centres, the media reported.
“If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Time magazine quoted Sessions as saying on Monday at a law enforcement event in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.
“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” Sessions added, describing the new policy as zero tolerance.
“We are dealing with a massive influx of illegal aliens across our Southwest Border. But we’re not going to stand for this.”
He said “11 million people are already here illegally. That’s more than the population of Portugal or the state of Georgia”, adding that illegal border crossings “must end”.
Sessions ramped up legal resources at the border, sending 35 federal prosecutors and 18 immigration judges to the southwest region to assist with an expected increase in border crossing cases.
The new policy is being implemented with the goal of a 100 per cent prosecution rate for all that enter the US illegally, reports Time magazine.
Charged adults will be sent directly to federal court.
Children in turn will be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which works with shelters or relatives in the US.
So far this fiscal year which began on October 1, 2017, more than 26,000 minors have been detained along the southern border, of which almost half come from Guatemala – 12,459 – followed by those from Mexico (6,151), Honduras (4,624) and El Salvador (2,090).
According to the the Department of Homeland Security, 700 children have been separated from their parents so far.
Last month, Senators at a subcommittee testimony said almost 1,500 migrant children went missing after federal officials put them in the homes of adult sponsors around the country.
The number of migrants detained along the US-Mexico border rose by 223 per cent in April compared to the same month in 2017, with 50,924 illegal migrants being apprehended.