Myth vs. Fact: DHS Zero-Tolerance Policy
Release Date:June 18, 2018
In recent days, we have seen reporters, Members of Congress, and other groups mislead the public on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) zero-tolerance policy.
Federal law enforcement officers have sworn duties to enforce the laws that Congress passes. Repeating intentionally untrue and unsubstantiated statements about DHS agents, officers, and procedures is irresponsible and deeply disrespectful to the men and women who risk their lives every day to secure our border and enforce our laws.
DHS has a policy to separate families at the border.
DHS does not have a blanket policy of separating families at the border. However, DHS does have a responsibility to protect all minors in our custody. This means DHS will separate adults and minors under certain circumstances. These circumstances include: 1) when DHS is unable to determine the familial relationship, 2) when DHS determines that a child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or 3) when the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution.
- Familial Relationship – If there is reason to question the claimed familial relationship between an adult and child, it is not appropriate to detain adults and children together.
- Human Trafficking and Smuggling – If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian of human trafficking or smuggling, DHS detains the adult in an appropriate, secure detection facility, separate from the minor. DHS continues to see instances and intelligence reports indicating minors are trafficked by unrelated adults, posing as a “family” in an effort to avoid detention.
- Safety Risk – If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian poses a safety risk to the child (e.g. suspected child abuse), it is not appropriate to maintain the adult and child together.
- Criminal Prosecution – If an adult is referred for criminal prosecution, the adult will be transferred to U.S. Marshals Service custody and any children will be classified as an unaccompanied alien child and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services custody.
In recent months, DHS has seen a staggering increase in the number of illegal aliens using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the United States. From October 2017 to February 2018, there was a 315 percent increase in the number of cases of adults with minors fraudulently posing as “family units” to gain entry.