The national debate over immigration has ramped up in recent weeks after reports surfaced that authorities on the U.S.-Mexico border are separating migrant children from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to deal with people who come into the country illegally.
This spring, the Trump administration ordered prosecutors to charge every person illegally crossing the border. Children traveling with the adults have been separated and placed in detention centers.
Here are some things to know about the immigration policy:
1. The ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy was announced in April.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April that he had directed prosecutors along the southwest border “to have a zero tolerance policy toward immigration.”
“Our goal is to prosecute every case that is brought to us,” Sessions said in April. “There must be consequences for illegal actions, and I am confident in the ability of our federal prosecutors to carry out this new mission.”
2. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from families after the policy announcement.
In the six weeks after Sessions’ announcement, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told reporters Friday.
From April 19 to May 31, officials said, 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults who said they were the guardians of the children, CNN reported.
3. Trump claims the separations are the Democrats’ fault.
“It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime,” Trump wrote Monday in a tweet. “Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”
4. No law mandates the separation of migrant children from parents.
Despite the president’s insistence that Democrats are to blame for the recent rash of separations, fact checkers with Politifact, Snopes and other organizations agree that the surge is not due to a law, but is due to Trump’s order.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Sunday in a tweet, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
Officials with DHS clarified in a news release Monday, saying that while the department has no “blanket policy of separating families at the border,” it will do as much “under certain circumstances.”
Officials said the circumstances include “when the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution,” as many would be if accused of entering the country illegally.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.