Answering commonly asked questions about the immigration detention controversy

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Q13 News has received quite a few questions surrounding the recent controversy over immigrants being separated from their children at the U.S./Mexico border. Brandi Kruse answers some of the most common questions we’ve received.

Q: Wasn’t this an existing policy?

A: The current separation of families attempting to enter the U.S. along the southern border is the result of a “zero tolerance” policy first set forth by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April. It reflects the current administration’s approach to existing law.

Q: Does this new policy specifically require that families are separated?

A: The “zero tolerance policy” mandates the prosecution of adults who attempt to unlawfully cross into the U.S. without documentation – whether seeking asylum or not. The result is that those parents are detained and separated from their children, which Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has herself acknowledged.

Q: Is the federal government required to carry out this policy? 

A: The current policy is a choice, not a law or court mandate, and the Trump administration could choose to loosen its own “zero tolerance” policy at any time.  Previous administrations, including the Obama administration, have in most cases chosen not to detain adults for illegal entry when doing so would separate them from their minor children.

Q: Why did the Trump administration choose to implement this “zero tolerance” policy?

A: The administration, in its own words, has said the separation of families is meant to deter parents from having their children cross the border illegally.

Asked by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Monday whether separating families was meant to be a deterrent, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “Yes, I hope people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry and not break across the border unlawfully.”

Furthermore, President Donald Trump has said that some criminals are using children to try to cross the border with impunity. President Trump tweeted on Monday: “Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country.”

Q: Has there been an increase in the cartel and smugglers using children to pose as families to get across the border?

A: There has been an increase of 314 percent. That number applies to less than one percent of family units apprehended at the border. From Oct. 2016-Sept. 2017, there were 46 such cases. Since last October, there have been 191. (Those numbers were provided to The Washington Post by the Department of Homeland Security.)

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