Trump’s “Zero-Tolerance” Policy Effect


The family separation policy is part of immigration policy initiated by the administration of the outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump. Its presentation and approach to the public came as ‘zero tolerance’ and aimed at deterring illegal immigration, encouraging more stringent legislation (Human Rights Watch, 2018). The official adoption of the policy was from April 2018 till June 2018 between the United States and Mexican borders.

Evidence of the ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Immigration Policy

The Department of Justice, through the office of the U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, notified all the offices of the U.S attorneys along the Southwestern Border on April 6, 2018, regarding the policy. The information regarded a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for offenses under the United States Constitution, prohibiting the attempt to enter the country by foreigners unlawfully. The Homeland Security Division reported a 203% increase in the U.S border’s illegal crossing from March of 2017 to the same month in 2018 (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Besides, from February 2018 to March 2018, the Department of Homeland Security also recorded an increase of about 37%, which insinuated the most massive increase in month-to-month from 2011 (Kandel, 2018). Thus, backed by Trump’s administration, the AG’s office decided to implement the policy to curb families from illegally crossing the Southwestern U.S border.

Undocumented immigration is present in the U.S. because of the failure of Congress to pass effective legislation that serves the nation’s interests. According to Burnett (2019), illicit immigration has made the situation utterly unacceptable in the Southwest Border. Congress failed to pass legislation that would see the closure of dangerous loopholes and fully fund the construction of a wall along the border. It has led to an eruption of crisis at the Southwest border of the U.S, necessitating an escalated effort in prosecuting those who cross the U.S border illicitly. In his speech on the commitment to public safety, President Donald Trump warned that illegal immigration would not be tolerated by his administration. He also noted that his government commits itself to the rule of law and national security, warning that unlawful entry would be met with full prosecution by the Department of Justice. Therefore, the president also urged the prosecutors to promote and enforce the rule of law, reminding them of the significance of protecting the nation, its citizens, and borders.

The United States-Mexico Border Environment (2006-2007)

In June 2007, an agent of border patrol attempted to rescue a non-US citizen from inundating in a canal close to El Paso. As he tried to save him, the patrol agent was hit with a rock in the head by a suspected human smuggler (Gearing et al., 2020). He responded by firing shots at the alleged smuggler and other potential aliens, who then escaped to Mexico. He sustained deep cuts in his head, and the undocumented citizen he was trying to save drowned. According to Gearing et al. (2020), the incident depicts a more violent boundary as more strict enforcement has resulted in desperation by such traffickers. The tightening of security led to the digging of tunnels under fences by migrants, disguising themselves as Mexican law enforcement officers. Such acts led to assaults of approximately 697 border patrol agents in the first nine months of 2006.

The federal government of the United States exercises control over migration policies. A significant immigration law principle from 1790 stated that the national government has the original responsibility and power (Kandel, 2018). The influence and accountability regarding the policy on various provisions of the U.S constitution include Congress’ privilege to provide for the common defense. The law also provides for the country’s overall welfare, trade with foreign nations, and establishes a uniform naturalization rule. Therefore, counties and states do not have control of undocumented entry across their borders.

Prosecution and Illegal Crossings

President Trump’s administration legalized the prosecution of alien families on the southwest border. However, judicial reform groups argue that no evidence of the prosecutions would deter the illicit act. Vera Institute of Justice’s report reveals the analysis of a prior attempt to prosecute undocumented aliens, referred to as Operation Streamline, proved futile as it could not deter unauthorized immigration (Human Rights Watch, 2018). As a result, courts clogged with prosecutions, leading to a shift of resources from more severe cases, robbing citizens of due process.

Separation of Children from Families

The U.S. AG stated that the federal government would criminally prosecute 100% of those illegally crossing. Gearing et al. (2020) argue that the prosecution would also include families with children, resulting in separation of guardians from their young individuals. Before the policy’s imposition, children were allowed to be with their parents in shelters as they awaited cases of asylum or proceedings on deportation. President Trump’s administration’s willingness to take children away from parents continues to spark controversy and concerns. Questions have been raised about how far the authorities must stem unauthorized crossings along the border and the acceptable human costs concerning border security and immigration control.

Over 700 young individuals were supposedly detached at the border from their parents. It took place before the new strategy’s coming to effect on the prosecution (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Immigration employees observe a considerable increment in the number of affected young persons, despite the federal government’s failure to release the actual figures (Human Rights Watch, 2018). According to one of the female immigrants who spoke to NBC News, the border patrol agents detained her for five days in a holding cell. The agents allegedly told her that the laws were going to change, disuniting mothers from their children. However, the incident took place before the ‘zero-tolerance policy’ came to full effect, and the woman was released.

The ‘zero-tolerance policy’ on immigration also required that when parents are held awaiting prosecution, their children are taken to the office of Refugee Resettlement. These are also part of the Health and Human Services policies (Human Rights Watch, 2018). The undocumented alien children are then classified as unaccompanied minors, as the government attempts to link them to relatives already in the United States. Until then, they wait in shelters or are sent to contracted homes, mostly without parents being informed of their exact locations.

Opinion on the Credibility of the Shreds of Evidence

The proposal by Homeland Security on immigration checks is likely to make it more challenging to unite undocumented citizens’ children with relatives. The provision has been proposed to be conducted on all persons in households taking such persons. Hence, the undocumented relatives may have a fear of coming forward to claim their young relatives. Through the Attorney General, the DOJ confirmed that the intent of the policy was not to separate families. The deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, also reiterated that the DHS has no blanket policy that would separate families in deterrence (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Media reports reveal that President Trump’s administration continued the system despite the court ending it. In February 2019, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and CBS News reported that 245 children were taken away from their families (Kandel, 2019). In other instances, those with some documentation were taken to track them for a reunion with their families.

The Health and Human Services Department issued a report in 2019, addressing ‘zero-tolerance policy.’ The unit explored the impacts of separating and detaining migrants and their children on their mental health. Deficiencies in mental health workers were found in holding centers, attributed to the increment in mental health problems among the immigrants. The young persons deterred from accessing their relatives exhibited abandonment, fear, PTS (post-traumatic stress), while others showed signs of grief. The Physician for Human Rights organization also reviewed the DHHS report and gave its comments. It deduced that President Trump’s administration had to suspend separation of families, reunite them, and offer reparations for the dangers caused by the act.


In conclusion, these evidences have provided a substantial proof of how the policy adversely affects immigrant families in the U.S., the available data also backs these pieces of evidence. Some of the sources used in examining the concept include State Department Reports, sentiments from advocates of human rights, and media reports. I believe these sources are trustworthy and hold a standard of objective research integrity because of their similarity of facts.


Burnett, J. (2019). How the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy changed the immigration debate. NPR.Org. Web.

Gearing, R. E., Washburn, M., Torres, L. R., Carr, L. C., Cabrera, A., & Olivares, R. (2020). Immigration policy changes and the mental health of Mexican-American immigrants. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Web.

Human Rights Watch. (2018). Q&A: Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Web.

Kandel, W. A. (2018). The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy (United States; Report No. R45266; p. 24). Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Trump’s “Zero-Tolerance” Policy Effect." December 30, 2022.