August 7, 2018


Immigration "loophole" that Trump bemoaned returns after zero tolerance rollback (DAVID YAFFE-BELLANY AUG. 7, 2018, Texas Tribune)

As the United States' immigration policies continue to shift, the procedures that dictated the fates of asylum-seeking families as recently as a few weeks ago already seem like ancient history. A head-spinning sequence of events -- chaotic procedural changes, followed by furious public outcry and abrupt policy reversals -- appears to have put the Trump administration back where it started: running an immigration enforcement system in which migrant families who cross the border illegally are allowed to stay in the country while the government processes their asylum claims.

"The administration has backed off," said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "The procedures that we're seeing at the border are those that were previously conducted, prior to the announcement of zero tolerance."

Under the zero-tolerance policy, which the Trump administration announced in May, Border Patrol officers handed migrant parents who crossed the border illegally to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution. That process resulted in thousands of family separations, as immigrant children -- who the government cannot detain for longer than 20 days under a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores Agreement -- were transferred to shelters while their parents went to detention centers.

But in late June, after President Donald Trump issued an executive order ending family separations, Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced that agents had temporarily stopped referring adult migrants with children for prosecution. A Border Patrol spokesman confirmed last week that a "temporary suspension" remains in effect as the agency works with the Justice Department to "maintain family unity while enforcing prosecution efforts."

The administration's retreat from "zero tolerance" was on full display at McAllen's bus station last Tuesday as a long line of recently released immigrant parents arrived with tracking devices strapped to their ankles. Among them was Carla Molina, 27, who said she paid smugglers $7,000 to help her and her 6-year-old daughter travel to the border from Honduras.

Molina said she and her daughter were headed to San Antonio, where they plan to stay with friends.

"I always trust in God," she said. "With God, anything is possible."

Posted by at August 7, 2018 4:00 AM