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DOJ announces "zero tolerance" policy on Southwest border

  1. Original Date Announced

    April 6, 2018

    Attorney General Sessions issues a memo establishing a new "zero tolerance policy" for illegal entry along the Southwest border. Under the policy, US Attorneys Offices will prosecute all offenses under section 1325(a) referred to DOJ by DHS. [ID #324]

    DOJ Memorandum for Federal Prosecutors Along the Southern Border: Zero-Tolerance for Offenses Under 8 U.S.C. §1325(a)
  2. Effective Date

    April 6, 2018
  4. Biden Administration Action: Revoked/Replaced

    January 26, 2021

    2021.01.26 Rescinding the Zero-Tolerance Policy for Offenses Under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)

    This Biden administration policy revokes the Trump-era policy identified in this entry.

    On Jan. 26, 2021, Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued a memo rescinding the zero tolerance policy.

    View Document

Current Status

Not in effect
January 26, 2021
Acted on by Biden Administration

Original Trump Policy Status

Status: Final/Actual
Trump Administration Action: Agency Directive
Subject Matter: Border
Agencies Affected: CBP AG

Pre Trump-Era Policies


  • CNBC: Tougher enforcement policy will separate more families

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  • New York Times: Trump Administration ramps up 'zero tolerance' policy

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  • New York Times: 'Zero Tolerance' surprised federal agencies

    The Department of Homeland Security, which apprehends border crossers, and the Department of Health and Human Services, which cares for separated migrant children, were both caught off guard when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally, the [GAO] report said. Report at

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  • The Trump administration used an early, unreported program to separate migrant families along a remote stretch of the border

    As reported by the Washington Post: "In May 2017, Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Ariz., began implementing a program known as the Criminal Consequence Initiative, which allowed for the prosecution of first-time border crossers, including parents who entered the United States with their children and were separated from them.

    From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, 234 families were separated in Yuma, according to newly released data from the Department of Homeland Security, almost exactly the same number as were separated in a now well known pilot program in El Paso that year. Because the Yuma program began in May, and the existing data on family separations begins only in July, the number of separations there was likely higher than 234, a prospect the Biden administration is now investigating."

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