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Biden Justice Department rescinds Trump's 'zero tolerance' enforcement policy on illegal immigration

"I am rescinding — effective immediately — the policy directive,” said acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson.

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border crossing
Otay border crossing at U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana
(Omar Martínez/picture alliance via Getty Image)
Updated: January 27, 2021 - 12:24pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Biden Justice Department has rescinded a Trump-administration directive that established a "zero tolerance" enforcement policy for immigrants illegally crossing the southern U.S. border.

Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on Tuesday issued the new memo telling federal prosecutors throughout the country that the department would return to its previous policy to decide each case individually.

"Consistent with this longstanding principle of making individualized assessments in criminal cases, I am rescinding — effective immediately — the policy directive," Wilkinson wrote, according to the Associated Press.

The "zero tolerance" policy, put forth in a 2018 memo by Trump to the Justice Department, meant that any adult caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, families were separated and children were taken into custody by Health and Human Services, which manages unaccompanied children at the border, the wire service also reported.

Rescinding the Trump-era policy was mostly symbolic but undoes policy which can separate children from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border. 

Most families have not been prosecuted under zero tolerance since 2018, when the separations were halted, though separations have continued on a smaller scale.