CGRS Decries Inhumane “Zero Tolerance” Policy at the Border

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) decries the cruel “zero tolerance” policy now being enforced at our southern border, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a speech on Monday. Sessions’ speech followed a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security last Friday declaring that the agency would no longer exempt classes or groups of individuals at the border – including asylum seekers and parents with children – from criminal prosecution for “illegal entry.”

Under this new policy, the Trump Administration plans to increase prosecutions of people at the border in an attempt to deter future migration. Parents who cross the border with their children will face criminal charges and the possibility of prolonged detention, while their children will be transferred to shelters to navigate their own deportation proceedings alone. The majority of families who will be impacted by this policy are from Central America, where widespread gang- and gender-based violence have in recent years driven many to flee north. Central American parents who make the perilous journey to our border are not “smuggling” their own children, as Attorney General Sessions has suggested. They endure tremendous hardship, leaving everything they know behind, to protect their families from life-threatening violence in their home countries.

Individuals and families fleeing violence have a legal right to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief in the United States. Treating them like criminals and punitively separating them from their loved ones violates our legal obligations to refugees and our Constitution, and runs contrary to our cherished values of justice, compassion, and family unity.