Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions knew his “zero tolerance” policy on illegal entry along the Southwest border in 2018 would separate children from their parents, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Thursday. Despite warnings that the government couldn’t care for the children, he pushed forward with the policy. As a result, more than 3,000 children were separated from their families, NPR reports. Horowitz issued a critical review that found the department “failed to effectively prepare for and manage the policy’s implementation.” Trump administration officials “significantly underestimated [the policy’s] complexities and demonstrated a deficient understanding of the legal requirements related to the care and custody of separated children,” the report said.
It concluded that DOJ’s “single-minded focus on increasing immigration prosecutions came at the expense of careful and appropriate consideration of the impact of family unit prosecutions and child separations.” The administration told federal prosecutors in 2017 to prioritize immigration prosecutions. DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security discussed policy changes, including criminally prosecuting “family unit adults” and separating them from their children, the report said. The review says Sessions grossly underestimated the legal and logistical challenges accompanying his policy. DOJ failed to coordinate effectively with other agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, which were given no advanced notice, the review said.