A recent analysis of immigration data by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in New York has raised questions about the effectiveness of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance approach to illegal border entries into the United States.
On April 6, 2018, the government announced a new zero tolerance policy that called for the criminal prosecution of all individuals who were caught crossing the southern border illegally. Since then, thousands of immigrant children have been separated from their families. While the Trump Administration has claimed family separations were simply an unavoidable consequence of the policy, TRAC says the data indicate otherwise.
The report suggests that parents with children were disproportionately targeted for criminal prosecution over adults who attempted to enter the country without children. More than 40,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended a month after the zero tolerance policy was implemented. U.S. border authorities arrested 24,465 adults without children in May, 2018. ICE prosecuted only 9,216 individuals across the five border districts.
According to TRAC’s analysis, although there was an overall rise in the number of illegal entry apprehensions, only 32 percent of adults detained at the border faced criminal prosecution in May, 2018. The report questioned why U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials were targeting parents with children rather than enforcing a blanket zero tolerance policy toward all individuals who tried to cross the U.S. border illegally.
“The Administration has not explained its rationale for prosecuting parents with children when . . . so many other adults without children . . . were not being referred for prosecution,” the report stated.
TRAC also noted significant changes in the areas where prosecutions were concentrated following the zero tolerance policy’s enforcement. The Southern District of Texas had the highest number of prosecutions in May, 2018, with 3,996, nearly twice as many as the 1,959 recorded in April. The Southern District of California, which had the lowest number of prosecutions among the five border districts in April, 2018, also logged an increase.
In contrast, the total number of prosecutions in Arizona, West Texas and New Mexico dropped in May, 2018, in comparison to the previous month. West Texas had the highest number of prosecutions in April, 2018, with 2,767.