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Trump and Aides led to family separation at border, documents say

WASHINGTON – President Trump and senior White House aides have vigorously pushed the hardening policy that has led migrant families to be separated on the border with Mexico, a senior Justice Department official says in a new report of the inspector general of the department, and other internal documents.

In the report, officially released on Thursday, Gene Hamilton, a senior justice official, said the policy was implemented after complaints from the president and other White House people involved in implementing the program. Immigration of the President.

“The attorney general was aware of the White House’s desires for further action related to tackling illegal immigration,” Hamilton said in the report in response to questions about the origins of the program, in which the ministry began to prosecute adult migrants who arrived at the border with children.

Mr. Hamilton said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions “saw the need for swift action” from Mr. Trump and that after a White House meeting on April 3, 2018, Mr. Sessions ” directed that I write a memo that establishes a zero tolerance approach to border immigration law enforcement.

In a statement released Thursday after the Inspector General’s report, Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general involved in politics, expressed deep regret over the zero tolerance policy and the role it played in its implementation.

“Since leaving the ministry, I have often wondered what we should have done differently, and no problem has dominated my thinking more than the zero tolerance immigration policy,” he said. . “It was a failed policy that should never have been proposed or implemented. I wish we had all done better.

Notes obtained by The New York Times of two meetings – one between federal prosecutors along the Southwestern border and Mr. Sessions, and the other with Mr. Rosenstein – also indicate that law enforcement were pushing the separation policy in response to pressure from the president.

In a May 11, 2018 meeting with Mr. Sessions, the attorney general told prosecutors, “We have to take children,” according to the notes. Moments later, he described Mr. Trump as “very intense, very focused” on the matter, according to a person taking notes at the meeting.

Another person who attended the same meeting wrote of the same part of the conversation involving Mr. Trump: “INTENSE: sue everyone.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly tried to evade responsibility for his administration’s family separation policy by wrongly blaming Democrats and former President Barack Obama. But the Inspector General’s report and other documents directly implicate the Trump White House.

On May 14, just days after Mr. Sessions met with his prosecutors, Stephen Miller, the chief architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration policy in the White House, emailed Mr. Hamilton noting a newspaper article indicating that American lawyers sometimes refused to do so. prosecute migrants who crossed the border illegally, in part because migrants were crossing with young children. Mr. Hamilton replied, “This article is a big deal.”

Eight days later, on May 22, Rosenstein met again with US lawyers who deal with border issues to insist that they prosecute any cases of illegal crossings referred to them by the border patrol. He dismissed concerns from at least one prosecutor that children under 5 would be separated from their parents if adults were prosecuted.

“If they refer, then go on. THE AGE OF THE CHILD DOESN’T MATTER, ”Rosenstein said, according to notes from one person at the meeting, who wrote in all caps.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and new chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement: “Those who have planned and executed the zero tolerance policy will have to live with the knowledge that their cruelty and cowardice are responsible for the scars these children will bear for the rest of their lives. They must be held accountable for the fundamental human rights violations they have committed. “

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