“If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. That is what the law calls for — and that is what we are going to do,” Sessions said. “Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.”
“However, we are not sending children to jail with their parents,” he said, adding that the policy “can result in short-term separation.”
“Noncitizens who cross our borders unlawfully, between our ports of entry, with children are not an exception,” the attorney general said. “They are the ones who broke the law, they are the ones who endangered their own children on their trek. The United States, on the other hand, goes to extraordinary lengths to protect them while the parents go through a short detention period.”
Current law does not prohibit separating children from their parents.
Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and when parents are charged they end up in federal and separated from their children— an increasingly dire situation that has drawn criticism from lawmakers in both major parties, as well as Christian groups, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, a supporter of President Donald Trump. Graham said this week that the administration’s efforts that led to families being “ripped apart” were “disgraceful.”
In addition, several evangelical groups sent a letter to the White House this month, asking Trump to protect families at the border that were fleeing violence.