.- In recent weeks, changes to the U.S. enforcement of immigration policy have made headlines, as an effort to pursue criminal prosecution has led to family separations.

What exactly are the new policies? How did the changes come about? And how have Church leaders responded?

In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that seeks to criminally prosecute 100 percent of immigrants who are caught crossing the border illegally.

Until that policy was announced, people caught crossing the border illegally were sent to an immigration judge, who would determine whether they would be deported. While waiting for a hearing, they would be held in immigration detention centers, or – due to lack of resources or legal limits on how long certain types of immigrants could be detained – be given a court date and released.

The Trump administration’s decision to pursue criminal prosecution means that immigrants are held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.

This shift to the criminal justice system is what leads to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail with their parents.

The family separation policy has been described by Sessions as a deterrent to illegal immigration. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he said May 7.

Read more at Catholic News Agency. 

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