In a new interview with the Washington Post, the person in charge of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy in the Rio Grande Valley said that the number of children taken from their parents would likely double in the coming months. The Rio Grande is now the busiest segment of the U.S.-Mexico border as more refugees from Central America have attempted to enter the United States there.
Manuel Padilla Jr., Border Patrol chief for the Rio Grande Valley, told the Post that his border agents had separated 568 parents from children but that figure was just half the number of parents who could have been prosecuted. According to Padilla, this means that as they step up enforcement under the zero-tolerance policy he thinks the number of children taken from parents will double. At least, that is what he is hoping will happen.
“We are trying to build to 100 percent prosecution of everybody that is eligible,” Padilla said. “We are not there yet, but that is our intent.”
According to national figures from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) nearly 2,000 minor children were taken from their parents during the six week period from April 19 through May 31, and many more have occurred during June.
Padilla is a big supporter of the new policies which require all people to be arrested and requires separation of children. He said that many years of lax enforcement of U.S. laws had encouraged more attempts at illegal entry into the country.
“This zero-tolerance initiative changes that completely,” he said. “We cannot just have this surge of immigration without any consequences.”
While Padilla said he hopes the new policies will remain in place long enough to be 100% effective, many others disagree with him. There has been an outcry from religious groups, both Republicans and Democrats, and even the United Nations about the policies which are seen as both cruel and unnecessary.
More importantly, advocates for the people detained have made clear that the factors which motivate families to attempt to enter the United States illegally are not going away.
Wendy Young, president of a nonprofit group that provides immigrant children with free legal support said that the new policies won’t stem the tide. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had said that the cruel approach is needed to stop people from coming.
“It doesn’t matter how cruel we become. Families are going to take that risk,” she said.