Agents feared penalty for Don pol­icy sep­a­rat­ing kids

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY CHRIS SOMMERFELD­T

U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cials pri­vately wor­ried they could face jail time for their roles in Pres­i­dent Trump’s since-scrapped pol­icy to sep­a­rate mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents, ac­cord­ing to emails re­leased Thurs­day amid re­newed scru­tiny over the fam­ily-shat­ter­ing prac­tice.

The emails were in­cluded in a House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee re­port sum­ma­riz­ing its 21-month probe into the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s so-called “zero tol­er­ance” pol­icy, which re­quired Bor­der Pa­trol agents to split up thou­sands of mostly Cen­tral Amer­i­can fam­i­lies who il­le­gally crossed into the U.S. from Mex­ico in 2017 and 2018.

In one email dated June 4, 2018, a Bor­der Pa­trol su­per­vi­sor in Texas’ Rio Grande Val­ley wrote to a sub­or­di­nate that a lo­cal fed­eral judge had been “very up­set” in a court hear­ing and or­dered the agency to “keep con­stant track of the chil­dren once they are sep­a­rated from their par­ents and when and where they are re­uni­fied.”

“This is go­ing to be a huge headache, I might be spend­ing some time in the slam­mer,” the su­per­vi­sor wrote fol­lowed by a sad-face emoji.

The sub­or­di­nate, a Bor­der Pa­trol en­force­ment agent, re­sponded: “I ain’t go­ing to jail!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The names of the Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cials were blacked out in the com­mit­tee re­port.

Bor­der Pa­trol spokes­peo­ple did not re­turn re­quests for com­ment Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee re­port — which also re­veals that the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan for­mu­lat­ing the zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy “within weeks” of the pres­i­dent’s 2017 in­au­gu­ra­tion, far ear­lier than pre­vi­ously known — came on the heels of the gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ting in court pa­pers last week that it still hasn’t lo­cated the par­ents of 545 sep­a­rated mi­grant chil­dren.

Many of those chil­dren re­main in shel­ters or fos­ter homes un­der the cus­tody of the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, while their par­ents have since long been de­ported to their home coun­tries.

With Elec­tion Day loom­ing, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Joe Bi­den has seized on the lat­est zero-tol­er­ance rev­e­la­tions.

In an ad re­leased this week, Bi­den’s cam­paign pledged he would as pres­i­dent im­me­di­ately is­sue an ex­ec­u­tive or­der “cre­at­ing a fed­eral task force to re­unite th­ese chil­dren with their par­ents.”

Trump, in his fi­nal de­bate with Bi­den ear­lier this month, in­sisted that the is­sue’s overblown be­cause the sep­a­rated kids are “so well taken care of” and “in fa­cil­i­ties that are so clean.”

The zero-tol­er­ance is­sue re­mains one of the most con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy de­ba­cles of Trump’s pres­i­dency.

The pol­icy — which was of­fi­cially in ef­fect be­tween April and June 2018, but had been prac­ticed by the ad­min­is­tra­tion since at least March 2017 — or­dered fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to treat all il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings as crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions, as op­posed to civil mis­de­meanors.

As a re­sult, adults who en­tered the U.S. il­le­gally were put into the cus­tody of the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice pend­ing de­por­ta­tion. Any ac­com­pa­ny­ing chil­dren would be sep­a­rated and put un­der the su­per­vi­sion of HHS.

Pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions had treated il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings as a civil is­sue, al­low­ing fam­i­lies to re­main to­gether in cus­tody while await­ing de­por­ta­tion.

Amid enor­mous back­lash, Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in late June 2018 re­scind­ing zero tol­er­ance, al­low­ing mi­grant fam­i­lies to re­main to­gether in cus­tody. At that point, though, more than 2,700 chil­dren had al­ready been ripped from their rel­a­tives.

A boy and fa­ther from Hon­duras are taken into cus­tody by U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol agents near Mis­sion, Texas around the time that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ze­ro­tol­er­ance pol­icy was in ef­fect.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.