WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
16 May 2018 | Press Release

Jailing All Border Crossers Would Break U.S. Courts and Prisons

Washington, D.C.—The Trump administration is making preparations to take thousands of migrant children from their parents, as part of the government’s new “zero tolerance” approach towards those caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the new policy, parents who come to the United States seeking asylum and who cross the border “improperly,” as the law defines it, will be tried as criminals, and their children treated as unaccompanied minors. With little space in immigration detention facilities to accommodate the expected increase of children in U.S. government care, the Trump administration plans to hold some of the children on military bases until they are placed with guardians or in foster care, reported the Washington Post. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a research and advocacy group advancing human rights in the Americas, this “zero tolerance” approach is unsustainable and inhumane: if implemented to the fullest extent, not only would it split up tens of thousands of families, it would cause the government’s courts, prisons, and official border crossing-points to collapse.

“It’s appalling to think that thousands of young migrant children could be taken from their parents in the coming months, while their parents could end up in a U.S. prison,” said WOLA Director for Defense Oversight Adam Isacson. “The number of undocumented people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border is at a 48-year low, and more than a third of them are children and families. What the United States needs is modest, smart adjustments to border security, not a radical plan that would fill up federal courts and prisons with desperate people who came to the United States looking for protection.”

As detailed in a new WOLA analysis authored by Isacson, should the Trump government attempt to prosecute 100 percent of the people caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, this influx of prosecutions would overwhelm the federal court system, especially in border states. The mass incarceration of all border crossers would nearly double the entire federal prison population. The under-staffed, under-resourced official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border would be overwhelmed by asylum-seekers, causing chaos both at the ports and on the Mexican side of the border.  

Read the full analysis below for Isacson’s take on why the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards border-crossers stands to become one of the most shameful chapters in U.S. history if fully implemented:

Read The Analysis