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Timeline of DHS Policy of Family Separation and Prosecution of Parents

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March 7, 2017:  Secretary of Homeland Security confirms he is considering policy of separating families to achieve a deterrent effect.  

He explained, “I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States….It’s more important to me [than keeping children with their parents]…to try to keep people off of this awful network.

March 22, 2017:  200 groups write a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security in opposition to family separation policy.  

March 2017:  Numerous Members of Congress write letters to the Secretary of Homeland Security opposing family separation policy.  

April 5, 2017:  Former Secretary Kelly backs down at a Senate hearing and in a private meeting.

April 11, 2017:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions issues memo to federal prosecutors asking them to prioritize immigration violations, including bringing in and harboring, illegal entry, reentry, fraud and misuse of documents.

July – November 2017:  Internal memo obtained by the Washington Post in April of 2018 shows family separation policy implemented in New Mexico and West Texas for five months.

December 11, 2017:  8 organizations file complaints with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Office of the Inspector General highlighting several cases of family separation and explaining:

[O]ur organizations have noticed an alarming increase in instances of family members who arrived together but were intentionally separated by U.S. immigration officials without a clear or reasonable justification, as a means of punishment and/or deterrence and with few to no mechanisms to locate, contact, or reunite with separated family members.

February 8, 2018:  75 Members of Congress send letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen stating:

Separating children from their parents is unconscionable and contradicts the most basic of American family values. Moreover, the reported justification of this practice as a deterrent to family migration suggests a lack of understanding about the violence many families are fleeing in their home countries. More pointedly, the pretext of deterrence is not a legally sufficient basis for separating families.

April 6, 2018:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions issues memo directing federal prosecutors to adopt a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry.  

April 11, 2018:  DHS Secretary defends defends DHS before Congress stating, “[T]he standard is to – in every case – is to keep that family together as long as operationally possible….When we do it we do it to protect the child.”  

April 11, 2018:  DHS spokesperson states, “DHS does not have a policy of separating families at the border for deterrence purposes.”

April 20, 2018:  According to government data obtained by the New York Times, DHS has already separated 700 children from parents, including over 100 children under the age of 4.

April 26, 2018:  According to a Washington Post-obtained DHS memo, “The nation’s top immigration and border officials are urging Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to detain and prosecute all parents caught crossing the Mexican border illegally with their children, a stark change in policy that would result in the separation of families that until now have mostly been kept together.”

May 3, 2018:  The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Dr. Colleen Kraft, explains the harm caused by separating children from parents:  

The government’s practice of separating children from their parents at the border counteracts every science-based recommendation I have ever made to families who seek to build, and not harm, their children’s intellectual and emotional development.

May 4, 2018:  Secretary Nielsen issues memo requiring referral of every case involving an individual crossing the border illegally for criminal prosecution.

May 7, 2018:  Sessions statement explaining policy of prosecuting parents and separating families:

I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border.  If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.

If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you.

If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.

If you make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony.

If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too.  You’re going to jail.

So if you’re going to come to this country, come here legally.  Don’t come here illegally.