In May of 2018, President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice announced that there would be zero tolerance for families trying to unlawfully cross the United States/Mexico border. Under this policy, the government started criminally prosecuting all adult immigrants who crossed the border without permission, including those who were seeking asylum. The Department of Health and Human Services took custody of the minor children crossing with their parents and scattered them throughout 100 different youth shelters in the United States. Hundreds of these children were infants and toddlers.

This barbaric policy dramatically changed United States humanitarian rules. Before zero tolerance, families generally received parole and stayed together while awaiting a decision on their case. The consequences are devastating. By February of 2019, the federal government had received more than 4,500 complaints about sexual abuse of these children. In April of 2019, the government said (in court documents related to the family separations) that it could take up to two years to identify the thousands of children separated from their parents at the southern border.

Yesterday, the New York Times released an interview with Art Del Cueto, a Customs and Border Patrol officer. In the interview, the officer is not sorry for carrying out the government’s horrible policy. Despite the government’s official claim that the zero tolerance policy ended after public outcry in 2018, the officer implies that immigrants should prepare to experience the same treatment when crossing the border without inspection. The officer’s statements are disturbing, but unfortunately represent a true and official reflection of the attitude he holds towards immigrants.

A Customs and Border Protection officer guards parents and children after their detention

The government gives children Mylar blankets to stay warm in a freezing cold border processing station after separating them from their parents.