Gov’t watchdog: DOJ failed ‘zero tolerance’ management

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Department leaders under President Donald Trump knew their 2018 “zero tolerance” border policy would result in family separations but pressed on with prosecutions even as other agencies became overwhelmed with migrants, a government watchdog report released Thursday has found.

The report from the inspector general for the Justice Department found that leadership failed to prepare to implement the policy or manage the fallout, which resulted in more than 3,000 family separations and caused lasting emotional damage to children who were taken from their parents at the border. The policy was widely condemned by world leaders, religious groups and lawmakers in the U.S. as cruel.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, along with other top leaders in the Trump administration, were bent on curbing immigration. The “zero tolerance” policy was one of several increasingly restrictive policies aimed at discouraging migrants from coming to the Southern border. Trump’s administration also vastly reduced the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. and all but halted asylum at the border, through a combination of executive orders and regulation changes.

President-elect Joe Biden has said Trump’s restrictive immigration policies are harmful, but it’s not clear yet what he will do when he gets in office to alter the system.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to stop the separations and a federal judge ordered the families to be reunited, but some are still not.

Attorney Lee Gelernt, who has been working for years on the issue, said the practice was “immoral and illegal.”

“At a minimum, Justice Department lawyers should have known the latter. This new report shows just how far the Trump administration was willing to go to destroy these families. Just when you think the Trump administration can’t sink any lower, it does.”

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