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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde January 27, 2021

Biden fulfills promise to end Trump policy that led to family separations

President Joe Biden's administration rescinded the controversial Trump-era immigration policy that caused thousands of children to be separated from their parents as they arrived at the southwest border. The move fulfills a key Biden campaign promise.

Through a Jan. 26 memo to all federal prosecutors, Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson immediately rescinded the "zero-tolerance" policy issued April 6, 2018, by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Trump policy referred for prosecution all immigrants who illegally entered the country, even if they arrived with their children. When parents were referred for prosecution, their children were taken away from them and placed under the custody of the U.S.Health and Human Services Department. More than 3,000 children were separated from their families as a result of the policy. The Trump administration acknowledged that it didn't know the exact number of children who were separated, citing inadequate record keeping.

Wilkinson's memo said that the policy was "inconsistent with our principles."

The department's principles have long emphasized that decisions to bring criminal charges should involve not only a determination that a federal offense was committed and that there's sufficient evidence to get a conviction, Wilkinson said, but should also take into account other factors, including personal circumstances, criminal history and "other consequences that would result from a conviction."

Biden campaigned promising to reverse Trump's zero-tolerance policy that caused family separations at the border. The memo from the acting attorney general satisfies that pledge. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Email interview, Dena Iverson, acting director, Office of Public Affairs at the Justice Department, Jan. 26, 2021

Twitter, @NicoleSganga tweet, Jan. 26, 2021

Justice Department's Inspector General report, Review of the Department of Justice's Planning and Implementation of Its Zero Tolerance Policy and Its Coordination with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, January 2021

Justice Department, Attorney General Announces Zero-Tolerance Policy for Criminal Illegal Entry, April 6, 2021

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