Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Zero Tolerance Policy!

Zero Tolerance Policy Frequently Asked Questions

When did it start? April 16, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions notified all U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border of a new “zero-tolerance policy” for offenses under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), which prohibits both attempted illegal entry and illegal entry into the United States by an alien. (DOJ)

*basically illegal entry became a felony and the individual is criminally prosecuted which leads to the separation of the parent and child because the child has not been charged with a crime

Who are the main people involved with this policy?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and President Trump

Reason why the policy was enacted?

The implementation of the Attorney General’s zero-tolerance policy comes as the Department of Homeland Security reported a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018, and a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018—the largest month-to-month increase since 2011. (DOJ)

Read the memo here.

What was the previous policy (Bush and Obama)?

Catch and Release

*practice of apprehending illegal immigrants and then releasing them until their court date in the hopes that they would actually show up (obviously this was a failed policy)

Were families separated under the Obama Administration?


*“Waldman sent figures from fiscal 2010 through 2016 showing that, out of 2,362,966 adults apprehended at the southern border, 492,970, or 21 percent, were referred for prosecution. These figures include all adults, not just those who crossed with minor children, so they’re not a measure of how many families were separated under Obama.” (The Washington Post)

How many people were released by the Trump Administration before this policy was enacted?

nearly 100,000 immigrants during its first 15 months (The Washington Post)

How many children have been affected?

Nearly 2,000 children

What happens after the children are removed from their parents?

Referred to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within HHS

Placed in shelters (Converted Walmart facilities, A/C tents, etc.)

(After vetting) Placed with relatives or shelters run by nonprofits until parents have been through the court system

How many people were apprehended crossing the border illegally in 2017?

31,063 (2017 Unaccompanied minors)

61,089 (Family Units)

310,531 (Total Apprehensions)

The number of Family Units increased by 435 percent and the number of unaccompanied children (UAC) increased by 329 percent compared to May 2017. (CBP)

What are the main countries illegal immigrants are coming from?

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Then/most were from Mexico

Now/people from Central America (CBP)

How many people are caught crossing the border multiple times in one year?

10% caught more than one time in a year (CBP)

What is the Border Patrol’s primary mission?

CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws (CBP)

What does the Border Control find in a typical day?

CBP makes over 900 apprehensions and seizes 9,000-plus pounds of illegal drugs (CBP)

Does the zero tolerance policy call for the separation of families?

Technically, no BUT practically, yes

DHS Secretary: “Operationally what that means is we will have to separate your family,” Nielsen told NPR in May. “That’s no different than what we do every day in every part of the United States when an adult of a family commits a crime. If you as a parent break into a house, you will be incarcerated by police and thereby separated from your family. We’re doing the same thing at the border.”

How is illegal immigration harmful to immigrants?

  • Open to exploitation
  • Target for human traffickers
  • Tricked into servitude
  • Language barrier issues
  • Unaware of rules of the road and legal obligations
  • Target for drug cartels
  • Children exposed to treacherous journey through harsh terrain
  • Avoidable death by smugglers

What are the United States government’s main concerns?

  • Criminals entering the country
  • Human trafficking
  • Drug cartel influence
  • Illegal drugs (especially fentanyl)
  • People seeking to take advantage of US  system of benefits
  • Strain on education system and supports
  • Harmful plants, agriculture, animals gaining entry
  • Spread of diseases
  • Terrorist infiltration
  • Knowledge of who is in the country
  • Forcing down of wages with influx of unskilled labor

What is the controversy surrounding Attorney General Jeff Session’s citing of Romans 13 to justify this policy?

Quote- “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

*While there is a biblical admonition to obey authority. The real issue is whether the policy or law is unjust. Yes, we should obey authority but the government can be wrong (i.e. slavery was legal, abortion is legal). There is also the problem of verses that warn against harming children and protecting the poor and the fatherless. These are the verses that many are countering with on social media.

What laws is President Trump citing when he says that the Democrats need to change the laws and loopholes?

  • “Flores” consent decree (1997) – requires the federal government to release rather than detain all undocumented immigrant children, whether they crossed with parents or alone (The Washington Post) *20 day limit
  • Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) – law covers children of all nationalities except Canadians and Mexicans (bipartisan law)

*Central American children who are apprehended trying to enter the United States must be released rather than detained under the terms of the TVPRA, and they’re exempt from prompt return to their home countries. The law passed with wide bipartisan support and was signed by a Republican president, George W. Bush. No part of the TVPRA requires family separations. (The Washington Post)

  • Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 – comprehensive law governs U.S. immigration and citizenship and makes a person’s first illegal entry into the United States a misdemeanor

* rarely enforced by previous 3 administrations but sponsored and passed by Democrats

Who can fix it? 

President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Congress


Have a question that wasn’t answered? Comment below!





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