About 70 former U.S. attorneys, including John Walsh of Colorado, have condemned the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that has resulted in children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Both Republican and Democratic former U.S. attorneys argue that the policy goes beyond "inhumane" -- it overburdens the justice system by requiring a surge in resources to handle cases that are Class B misdemeanors. Addressing their remarks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they say:
"Your new Zero Tolerance policy requires federal prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Western Texas, and Southern Texas to depart from a decades-long approach — approved by Republican and Democratic Administrations alike — for charging illegal immigrants. Under your policy, federal prosecutors in those Districts must charge, arrest and detain the individual in each and every “illegal entry” case under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a). “Illegal entry” constitutes a Class B misdemeanor — a crime that has a maximum punishment of only six months in jail.
Nearly 2,000 minors have been separated from their families since Sessions announced the policy in April. If a person doesn't arrive at an appropriate port of entry to claim asylum, the crossing is deemed illegal and prosecuted even if the person does not have a criminal history.
"Like the majority of Americans, we have been horrified by the images and stories of children torn from their families along our nation’s Southwest Border," they write, calling the situation "a radical departure" from previous policy. The White House has created a situation "that is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served."
The bipartisan statement comes the same day that a coalition of Democratic attorneys general demanded that the Trump administration end the "zero tolerance" policy.
Led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, 21 top state prosecutors from California to Massachusetts sent a letter to Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday, calling the policy inhumane and draconian.
The letter raises concerns about the violation of children's rights and constitutional principles of due process and equal protection.
"The U.S. Justice Department is ignoring its legal and moral obligation for the sake of a political agenda at the expense of children and the efforts of state law enforcement officials combating crimes like human trafficking, drug trafficking and gang violence which operate across international borders," Balderas said in a statement.
On Monday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper banned state employees and resources from supporting any federal practices that separates families because of their immigration status, saying the Trump administration’s policy was offensive and ran counter to Coloradan values.
“It is deeply troubling the U.S. government would participate in such inhumane actions,” the governor said in the executive order. “The state of Colorado is a safe and welcoming place for all its residents.”
The order came after a rally at the state Capitol Monday led by elected officials and progressive groups that called for the governor to speak out against the practice.
The president has tried to blame Democrats for what he calls -- and members of his cabinet defend as -- a law that requires separating children from their parents, but as PoltiFact reports, there is no such law.
The Trump policy was announced April 6 and went into effect in May. From April 19 to May 31, 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults, according to Homeland Security statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The figures are for people who tried to enter the U.S. between official border crossings.