On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is going to enforce the previously mentioned “zero-tolerance” policy for individuals who cross the border of Mexico illegally. Sessions also stated that children who are apprehended could be separated from their family.
“If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” Sessions said at a press conference at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego.
“If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you,” he continued. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you, as required by law.”
Sessions announced in a memo last month that they were going to make prosecuting immigration violations a DOJ priority.
According to ABC News, the new policy is a response to a Department of Homeland Security report that shows a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018 as well as a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018, which is the largest month-to-month increase since 2011.
Sessions last week also said that additional U.S. attorneys and federal judges will be stationed at the southern border in order to deal with the increased immigration cases. On Monday, Sessions announced that any violation of immigration law would be prosecuted.
“If you’re going to come to this country, come here legally. Don’t come here illegally,” Sessions said. “The American people have a right to expect the laws their representatives voted for are going to be carried out,” he added. “Failure to enforce our duly enacted laws would be an affront to the American people.”
Immigration advocates and groups criticized the separating of immigrant children from their parents. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general is investigating if the department is separating the children of asylum seekers from their parents while they are in immigration custody.