Attorney General Jeff Sessions, last week, announced in a memo that there would be "zero tolerance" for those caught crossing the U.S. border illegally. "...[I]llegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice," said Sessions in a statement.
The new memo instructs all U.S. attorneys in the relevant districts to prosecute every violator of the federal law which bars improper entry by an alien individual, as opposed to selectively prosecuting only criminal or repeat offender cases. In other words, attorneys are instructed to prosecute even first-time, non-violent offenders, a policy which the Obama administration initially followed before shying away in later years.
Sessions's new order comes just a day after the Department of Homeland Security announced that attempted illegal entries along the southwestern border have increased notably over the past month. Attempted illegal crossing rose 37 percent in March as compared to February, and 203 percent comparing March 2018 to March 2017. (Notably, March 2017 marked the second lowest point of illegal immigration in the past five years.)
Zero tolerance practices, Sessions claimed in his memo, have led to a reduction in attempted illegal entry. In support of this analysis, he pointed to Operation Streamline, a zero-tolerance prosecution program begun in 2005.
Analysis from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency suggested that illegal crossers attempted to reenter the United States less frequently when prosecuted under Streamline as opposed to voluntarily departing the country, although the Department of Homeland Security has suggestedthat CBP's analysis was inadequat