Senior former Justice Department officials, including US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Rod Rosenstein, helped implement Trump administrative policies that resulted in the separation of children from their parents, a draft general report from the inspector shows.
The “zero tolerance” policy ultimately separated nearly 3,000 children from their parents for crossing the border illegally, which is a misdemeanor for the first offense.
Sessions announced the policy in April 2018, saying that any immigrant who illegally crossed the U.S. border would be prosecuted, including parents with young children. This resulted in children being separated from their parents and a great public outcry.
Five US prosecutors on the Mexican border in May 201
The New York Times first reported on the details of the draft report. NBC News has reviewed the draft report, which has not been made public, and has confirmed details in the Times story.
“We have to take away children,” said the Times to prosecutors in a conference call, the Times announced. One participant added briefly, “If you are looking after children, don’t bring them. You won’t.” Giving amnesty to people with children, “the report said.
Rosenstein made a second phone call to the five prosecutors about a week later that it didn’t matter how young the children were and that the government’s lawyers should not have refused to pursue two cases because the children were very young.
John Bash, the US attorney for the western district of Texas, wrote to his staff immediately after the call that “these two cases should not have been rejected,” referring to cases in his district that had been rejected the day before were very young children because the defendants did so, the report says. Rosenstein “instructed that under the AG’s policy, prosecution of adults in family units based on the age of a child should NOT be categorically rejected,” the report said.
Horowitz’s draft report says senior Justice Department officials have been “a driving force” in the policy of family segregation.
The report said Sessions and others knew the politics would lead to family separation and they wanted it because they believed it would deter illegal immigration, Horowitz reportedly wrote.
“The division’s single-minded focus on increasing law enforcement has come at the expense of careful and effective policy implementation, particularly with regard to the prosecution of adults in family units and the resulting segregation of children,” the draft report said.
The Department of Homeland Security, then headed by Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, has so far assumed a large part of the blame for politics. However, the report reveals how Justice Department officials have pushed policy in meetings, ordering their prosecutors to prosecute all parents, regardless of how young their children were.
Trump signed an executive order in June 2018 that halted the federal split after widespread outrage.
NBC News previously reported that in early May 2018, Trump Cabinet officials called to a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House were asked by a show of hands to move on with the controversial policy and they voted yes.
Nielsen held her hand down but later signed a memo instructing DHS staff to prosecute all migrants who illegally cross the border, including parents arriving with their children.
The draft report also provided details of a 2017 El Paso policy known as the “Zero Tolerance Pilot Program”. It was previously announced that the Trump administration separated children from their parents before the “zero tolerance” policy was announced.
Horowitz’s draft report states that an alarmed government attorney on the program wrote to superiors, “We have now heard that we are taking breastfeeding defendants away from their babies,” adding, “I didn’t believe this until I saw them.” Duty to have seen Log. “
A Justice Department spokeswoman Alexa Vance told The Times, “The draft report on which this article is based contains numerous factual errors and inaccuracies.”
“While the DOJ is responsible for prosecuting defendants, it played no role in prosecuting or caring for the children of defendants,” she told the newspaper. “After all, both the timing and misleading content of this leak raise worrying questions about the motivations of those responsible.”
Sessions and Rosenstein have since left the Trump administration. Bash announced this week that he will be retiring and entering the private sector.
Trump administration officials claimed in 2018 that separating children from their families was not a policy of its own, but a consequence of the prosecution of people entering the country illegally.