Trump Appears to Walk Back ‘Zero Tolerance’ Immigration Policy as Family Reunification Deadline Looms

The Trump administration on Tuesday appeared to significantly pull back from its “zero tolerance” immigration policy as it rushed to reunite families to satisfy a court order, saying it will largely release families with ankle bracelet monitoring rather than indefinitely detaining the migrant children and parents together.

Administration officials said just 38 of 102 children under age 5 were expected to be reunited with their families by Tuesday, the deadline set by a U.S. District Court judge in San Diego. In a joint midmorning filing, attorneys for the ACLU and the Department of Justice said only four families had been reunited so far.

The reunifications were taking place near the shelters where the children were being detained, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which did not give further details. Officials said the reunifications were expected to continue throughout the day.

“Parents with children under the age of 5 are being reunited with their children and then released and enrolled into an alternative detention program, meaning that they will be placed on an ankle bracelet and released into the community,” said Matthew Albence, the executive associate director of ICE’s enforcement and removal operations.

The abrupt reversal in the administration’s detention policy came on the heels of a federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday rejecting the Justice Department’s bid to hold the immigrant families in custody indefinitely. U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee denied a request by administration attorneys to modify a long-standing legal settlement outlining strict requirements for how immigrant minors are detained, dealing a blow to federal authorities’ plans.

Asked about reuniting families at the White House on Tuesday before departing for Europe, President Trump said he had a “solution” to the situation: “Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.”

He defended ICE from accusations that it has mishandled immigrant minors’ cases, saying the agency’s work was necessary.

By Eliza Fawcett for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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