TrumpWatch, Day 522: Trump Shouts, But Border Authorities Halt Detentions of Immigrant Families

Demonstrators block a bus with immigrant children outside the US Border Patrol Central Processing Center, McAllen, Texas, June 23, 2018 (David J. Phillip/AP)

Even as Donald Trump continues to rail against undocumented immigrants, a senior US official announces the suspension of the detention of families who cross the American border.

Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said his agency has temporarily halted implementation of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which had detained more than 2,500 children separated from undocumented immigrant parents since April.

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McAleenan said his agency and the Justice Department should agree on a policy “where adults who bring their kids across the border — who violate our laws and risk their lives at the border — can be prosecuted without an extended separation from their children”.

McAleenan indicated that CBP will return to the Obama Administration’s approach of releasing families on the promise that they will return for a court hearing, although he said that the agency will continue to refer single adults for prosecution.

The statement was a rebuke to the Justice Department, which insisted last Friday — following reports that CBP would no longer refer cases for prosecution — that there was no change to the “zero tolerance” announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

It also defied Donald Trump’s ongoing invective on Twitter and in rallies. Trump began Monday with a defense of the detentions despite revelations of the hardship for children taken from parents, “Our facilities are cleaner and better run than were the facilities under Obama.”

He then repeated that the legal process should be bypassed, with deportation of families before any court hearing can be held:

See also TrumpWatch, Day 521: Trump — No Judges or Courts for Deportations

Despite Trump’s bluster, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged defeat because of a lack of facilities to detain more children and parents, “We’re not changing the policy. We’re simply out of resources.”

Sanders repeated Trump’s lie that Democratic “laws” are responsible for the separations and detentions, “We’re working with Congress, hopefully, to provide more resources and the ability to actually enforce the law.”

There are no such laws.

Attorney General Sessions still maintained on Monday that “zero tolerance” will be fully enforced. He told school resource officers in Nevada, “The president has made this clear: We are going to prosecute those adults who came here illegally.”

Of the children seized since April, 522 — about 20% of the total — have been reunited with parents, according to Government agencies. However, there are concerns that others face lengthy waits because of lack of adequate records and/or the scores of documents being demanded from parents before any return of their sons and daughters.

Some children may also face lengthy separations because parents have already been deported.

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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