Criminal Justice & the Rule of Law

Report Details Justice Department's Push to Separate Immigrant Families

Jacob Schulz
Friday, January 15, 2021, 11:44 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With
Brookings

The Office of the Inspector General for the Justice Department released a report detailing a number of failures surrounding the Justice Department's 2018 "Zero Tolerance" immigration policy. That policy was unveiled by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a May 7, 2018 speech where he announced, "If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law."

The report notes that as a result of the policy changes, "more than 3,000 children were separated from their families and issues regarding reuniting children with their parents remain as of this date." The report explains that leadership at the Justice Department, particularly the Office of the Attorney General, was responsible for developing the policy and "failed to effectively prepare for, or manage, the implementation of the zero tolerance policy." The report emphasizes that Justice Department leadership failed to coordinate the implementation of the policy with the Department of Homeland Security and other relevant components of the federal government.

The report contains a number of details about the discussions within the administration surrounding the policy. The report, for example, cites notes taken on a conference call between Sessions and a number of U.S. Attorneys. In that call, Sessions told the U.S. Attorneys, "we need to take away children; if care about kids, don’t bring them in."

The report can be read here and below.


Jacob Schulz is the former managing editor of Lawfare. He previously served as deputy managing editor and associate editor. He hails from Pennylvania and attended Amherst College.

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