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Seventy-five former U.S. attorneys, serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations, sent a scathing letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions today, denouncing the Trump administration’s policy of mandatory criminal prosecutions of immigrants crossing the border, and separation of parents from children.
In addition to national figures like Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Sarah Saldana, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director, two Ohio prosecutors signed on: Carole S. Rendon, former US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Carter M. Stewart, former US Attorney for the Southern District.
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. And like a majority of Americans, we are appalled that your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children. But as former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served.
The prosecutors list several practical reasons for cancelling the policy, in addition to the moral and human consequences already on display:
It is a simple matter of fact that the time a Department attorney spends prosecuting misdemeanor illegal entry cases, may be time he or she does not spend investigating more significant crimes like a terrorist plot, a child human trafficking organization, an international drug cartel or a corrupt public official. Under your Zero Tolerance policy, firearms cases, violent crime cases, financial fraud cases, and cases involving public safety on Indian reservations all take a back seat to these lesser, weaker misdemeanor cases. In fact, requiring U.S. Attorneys to bring these misdemeanor cases in every instance detracts from your own stated priority to fight gangs and violent crime by groups such as MS-13.
The combination of unnecessary child trauma and dangerous national security impact is exacerbated by the crushing expense of arresting and detaining every “illegal entry” misdemeanor defendant. At a time when federal prison costs are threatening to blow an unfillable hole in the Department of Justice’s budget, the United States must now bear the cost of detaining parents and their entire families for months as their misdemeanor cases wind through the court system. This fiscal burden also falls on the Department of Homeland Security, whose officers and agents process the parents; federal defenders’ offices who represent them; the Department of Health and Human Services which houses the children; and the already overburdened federal courts which must provide these parents due process and, ultimately, justice.
In closing, the group writes:
As former U.S. Attorneys, we know that none of these consequences — nor the policy itself — is required by law. Rather, its implementation and its execution are taking place solely at your direction, and the unfolding tragedy falls squarely on your shoulders. It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice. It is time for you to end it. Effective leadership and the integrity of the world’s leading law enforcement agency require nothing less.
Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio, said:
When there is bipartisan agreement that a policy is immoral, wasteful, and undermines our security, it’s time to end the policy. The fact that seventy-five former government prosecutors are standing up and saying this should not be taken lightly. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration need to cancel this policy immediately, and work quickly to reunite the children they have already taken from parents.
As Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray ask Ohioans to choose them to be our next governor, we need to know where they stand on this Trump administration policy. The same holds for Dave Yost and former US Attorney Steve Dettelbach, who want to be our next Attorney General. Do they support the Trump administration’s war on children and families? Or are they willing to stand up and speak out for what is right? This is a moment of truth for them as candidates and leaders. Silence is not an option.
When Governor Kasich issued a personal video speaking against family separations, the Cincinnati Enquirer polled the entire congressional delegation on the issue. Objections were lodged by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman as well as Reps. Kaptur, Ryan, Beatty, Fudge, Stivers, and Joyce–although it remains to be seen how far some of those commitments will go. Others tried to have it both ways, like Reps. Wenstrup, Chabot, Renacci, Latta, and Johnson, while Reps. Davidson, Gibbs, and Jordan presented themselves as mini-Trumps. Rep. Turner has not yet responded.