A senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official suggested Thursday that the agency was backtracking on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants who illegally enter the United States with their children.
The Washington Post reported that Border Patrol was backing off the administration’s plans to criminally prosecute all parents who cross illegally into the United States because it does not have the resources needed to enact such a policy.
“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,” an unnamed official tells the publication.
With this latest reversal, the Border Patrol is essentially going back to the policies that were being followed toward the end of the Obama administration, in which families that crossed the border were released from custody and were outfitted with GPS trackers until the date of their immigration hearings, where they would be either allowed to stay in the country or ordered to leave.
President Donald Trump had insisted that his “zero tolerance” policies would remain in place even after he signed an executive order that ended the policy of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents.
A Justice Department spokesperson quickly denied the initial Washington Post report, which had suggested the Trump administration was backing off of the policy entirely.
“The Washington Post never reached out to the Department. Their story is not accurate. There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border,” Sarah Isgur Flores said.
The Washington Post later clarified that their source “was describing how the [Border Patrol’s] operations would change to no longer refer parents of migrant children for prosecution. Decisions whether or not to prosecute are the purview of the Department of Justice.”
(Note: This article has been updated for clarity.)