Demanding Repeal of “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Policy
Letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions
June 15, 2018
I am writing to demand that you immediately repeal the “zero tolerance” immigration policy you announced May 7, which has created a crisis at the border and had untold negative consequences for those seeking asylum, families, and communities.
Since your announcement, which stated that the Department of Justice would prosecute anyone who crosses the border illegally (even if those who cross present themselves to border agents as asylum seekers), there has been a rapid increase in the number of immigrants in federal jails. The last year has also seen increased reports of asylum seekers being met before they reach the border to prevent them from requesting asylum or being denied their credible fear interviews and turned away (which violates United States and International law), and an increase in the long term detention of asylum seekers.
Perhaps most striking has been the widespread separation of children from their families, which has been identified as a tool being used to deter other border crossers. Under your leadership, the Department of Justice has recast parents and family members who cross the border with their children to seek asylum as traffickers. In criminalizing a parental act of love and protection, you have manufactured a pressing need to remove children from their parents, whom you call criminals, in order to place them either in detention facilities or with foster families. This is both traumatizing and cruel, and is being used as a tool to promote stricter asylum and border laws despite being a crisis of the government’s own invention.
Family separations, and outgrowth of your zero tolerance policy, are also contributing to massive growth in the number of children under the government’s care. In order to house these children, it was reported this week that the Department of Health and Human Services is considering building so-called “tent cities” on military bases to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children. This is unconscionable and reminiscent of the “camps” of the 1930’s created by the Nazi regime in Germany. Our answer to illegal border crossings and the human rights crises facing many Latin American countries can simply not be that we will strip children from their families and warehouse them in tents. These actions harken back to some of the darkest periods of our history – the forced removal of indigenous people from their families, the internment of Japanese people during World War II – and I am horrified that we appear to take these immoral actions on behalf of the American people.
The zero tolerance policy you have enacted has wreaked havoc, and should be repealed immediately.