South Florida

Former U.S. attorneys blast AG Sessions for separating parents and children at border

Miami Herald Archive

Seventy-five former U.S. attorneys from Miami to Los Angeles who have served under both Republican and Democratic presidents put pressure on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday to end his policy of separating children from their parents when they illegally cross the Southwest border.

The former U.S. attorneys — including Wifredo Ferrer in Miami and Pamela Marsh in Tallahassee, who were appointed by President Barack Obama — joined a growing chorus of voices condemning the Trump administration's enforcement of a "zero tolerance" policy.

"Until now, every administration has chosen a path that has balanced the need for effective enforcement and deterrence with humanity and compassion," said the four-page letter to Sessions. "In the name of deterring illegal immigration, your Zero Tolerance policy abandons that balance."

The letter, whose lead signatory is Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, called on Sessions to keep families together while parents who are charged with the misdemeanor of illegal entry may seek the protection of asylum in the United States.

"Now, under your policy, because children cannot accompany their arrested parents to an adult criminal detention center, these children, including infants and toddlers, are routinely separated from their parents," the letter stated.

The group of former U.S. attorneys not only condemned the policy pushed by Sessions and President Donald Trump, but also questioned the wisdom of devoting limited federal resources to prosecuting every illegal entry case.

"Traumatizing children by separating them from their parents as a deterrent for adult conduct is, in our view, sufficient reason to halt your policy," the letter said.

"In short, there are only a finite number of federal prosecutors to address the broad swath of dangerous and illegal activity that takes place in our country," the letter continued. "In fact, requiring U.S. attorneys to bring these misdemeanor cases in every instance detracts from your own stated priority to fight gangs and violent crime by groups such as MS-13."

The group reminded Sessions, who has cited the Bible to justify the Trump administration's parent-child separation policy at the Southwest border, that he has the discretion to stop it.

The former U.S. attorneys said "its implementation and its execution are taking place solely at your discretion, and the unfolding tragedy falls squarely on your shoulders.

"It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice."