A group of 70 former U.S. Attorneys sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions a letter on Tuesday morning requesting that Sessions end his “dangerous, expensive” “zero tolerance” policy, which they claim is “inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served.”
The bipartisan group of former U.S. Attorneys, led by Preet Bharara from the Southern District of New York, argued the policy deviates from previous norms enacted by Republican and Democratic administrations and ignores the past precedent of maintaining a balance between “effective enforcement and deterrence with humanity and compassion,” the letter said.
“This balanced approach is especially critical when we are faced with persons seeking entry who may be eligible under established U.S. laws for the protection of asylum, as they flee persecution, horrific violence, or danger in their home countries,” they said.
According to the former prosecutors, the policy — which mandates the arrest of anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally — is a waste of dire resources as well, given the punishment for the misdemeanor offense of illegal border crossing is at most a year in prison.
They also argued that the law doesn’t mandate family separation. Under Sessions’ policy, anyone caught crossing the border is arrested and criminally charged. If they have children, the kids are separated from their parents while the adults meander their way through the immigration court system. The inhumane separation of families has received significant media attention in recent days as Trump administration officials double-down on their defense that the policy should work to deter illegal immigration.
“Collectively, as former United States Attorneys, we have prosecuted tens of thousands of cases involving far more serious crimes than misdemeanor illegal entry offenses. And even in those far more serious cases, decisions involving the separation of children from their parents were made with extraordinary caution, and only after an evaluation of the specific circumstances of a particular case,” the letter said. “Today, by contrast, your Zero Tolerance policy has produced a tragic and unsustainable result, without taking into account each family’s specific circumstances. Under your policy, families and children are greeted with unexpected cruelty at the doorstep of the United States, instead of with relief or asylum in the greatest country in the world. Until now, no Republican or Democratic administration, nor any prior Attorney General, has endangered children in order to deter illegal entry.”
Read the full letter here.