Trump administration officials quickly disputed a Washington Post story Thursday, which reported they would stop prosecuting migrant parents who cross the border unauthorized with their children, the latest confusing development relating to the president’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.
“We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody,” an official told the Post initially.
Little more than an hour after the story was first posted, the outlet was forced to update its story, clarifying that the Trump administration was not actually suspending prosecutions for parents of migrant children, but rather instructing Border Patrol agents to stop sending parents with children to federal courthouses for prosecution. Decisions about prosecutions are up to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Post noted.
The official clarified Thursday that because ICE lacks the detention capacity to increase the number of families it holds in detention, many migrant parents and children will likely be released from custody while they await court hearings.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed prosecutions will continue.
“There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border,” she told the outlet.
Within minutes of the story’s initial posting, DOJ and the White House were scrambling to deny the Post report. The DOJ spokeswoman told BuzzFeed and The Los Angeles Times that the story wasn’t accurate, and a White House official told another BuzzFeed reporter that they didn’t know anything about the report and weren’t aware of any breaking news on the subject.
“The Washington Post never reached out to the Department,” Flores tweeted. “Their story is not accurate. There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.”
Conflicting messages continue:
DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Flores says parents crossing the border with children are still being charged under "zero tolerance" policy.
“Not accurate, on the record," she says of below report. https://t.co/rmxAeVwmeX
— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) June 21, 2018
DOJ spox response to when asked about the WaPo story that the administration is suspending prosecutions of migrant parents: "Not accurate"https://t.co/rqAAY1SFP6
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) June 21, 2018
The Washington Post never reached out to the Department. Their story is not accurate. There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.
— Sarah Isgur Flores (@SarahFloresDOJ) June 21, 2018
The heightened confusion comes one day after President Trump signed an unnecessary executive order ending the family separation policy he created. Wednesday’s order did not end the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and instead attempts to replace family separation with indefinite family detention.
BREAKING: According to a source in federal court in McCallen, 17 people who were going to be charged with misdemeanor entry this morning are now *not* being charged because they are “heads of households” aka, came with kids.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 21, 2018
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reported Thursday morning that, according to a source in federal court, 17 people charged with entering the country illegally were not being charged because they were “heads of households” and crossed the border with children.
It’s unclear whether those families are part of the group referenced in the Washington Post report.