A “zero-tolerance” policy toward people who enter the United States illegally may cause families to be separated while parents are prosecuted, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would refer all arrests for illegal entry to federal prosecutors, throwing its weight behind Sessions’ policy announced last month to vastly expand criminal prosecutions of people with few or no previous offenses. A conviction for illegal entry carries a maximum penalty of six months in custody for first-time crossers, though they usually do far less time, and two years for repeat offenses.
“If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” Sessions told reporters on a mesa overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where a border barrier separating San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, juts out into the ocean.