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By Miriam Raftery

May 9, 2018 (San Diego) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, visiting border communities in San Diego and Arizona in the past week, affirmed a zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally. He also made clear that no compassion will be shown to parents seeking a safe haven in America for their children, stating, “If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”

Advocates for migrants say that most coming to America today are fleeing violence in Central America and should be treated as asylum seekers. However the Trump administration has indicated that even those seeking asylum will be detained, with parents separated from children for extended periods of time with parents put behind bars.  

Until now, families were generally released pending hearings to keep children with parents, though if an adult was found not to be related to a child smuggled in, the child would be taken for protective purposes.

The Washington Post reports that Sessions indicated he has “no doubt” that many border crossers are fleeing danger, but showed no sympathy for their plight, stating, “We cannot take everyone on this planet who is in a difficult situation.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra suggested the state may consider legal action. He stated, “As a father, the last thing I would do is separate fathers and mothers from their children and I would hope the federal government thinks twice about doing this,” Becerra said. “There are constitutional protections we can look to.”

Andrew Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego and co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, blasted the Trump administration’s announcement as “neither a practical nor a humane response to people who may be seeking refuge or who may not have a line to stand in to apply for legal status,” adding that the action “does nothing to reflect our values of inclusion and compassion and does nothing to address an outdated and insufficient immigration system.”