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US 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: Donald Trump's A team hunkers down as outrage explodes; unleashes data to support its stance

Calls are mounting across America for the Donald Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border but the lynchpins in this swirling crisis are not backing down.

US President Donald Trump's A team on immigration, led by firebrand Stephen Miller, is showing no signs of softening its stand - which has never really deviated in the last 18 months.

 US zero tolerance immigration policy: Donald Trumps A team hunkers down as outrage explodes; unleashes data to support its stance

Children separated from their parents at the US border. AP

Miller says its best and says it often: "We want to fix this thing once and for all. We don't want to come back to this place two years later."

On the face of it, this current border control crisis seems to be all about illegals and asylum but how long before this explodes into a full blown conversation on the immigrant mix? That's anybody's guess. Just for background though, the lion's share of US immigrants are from Asia and Latin America.

Left leaning or "liberal" minded news networks are droning on about "contradictory views" from the Trump government but Trump, for his part, has remained clear about his immigration priorities well before he began his ascent to the White House. This is what he ran on and won in 2016 and he's not going to let up. The Homeland Security department is going overboard to maybe please the president but then again, the facts that the White House is throwing back at its critics are as powerful if not more lethal than the resistance to family separation.

Sample this fact box titled 'The Crisis At The Border By The Numbers' just in from the White House on Tuesday morning. One of the data points: "More than 110,000 unaccompanied alien children have been released into the interior of the United States since the beginning of FY 2016, according to the Department of Health and Human Services."

Trump is meeting Tuesday with fellow Republicans as lawmakers in both parties are up in arms over the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal border crossings.

Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the previous administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

The fight is erupting as the House is already embroiled in an election-year struggle over immigration legislation that threatens to hurt Republicans in November.

Democrats have seized on the family separation issue, swarming detention centers in Texas to highlight the policy. They are demanding that the administration act to keep migrant families together. Republicans are increasingly joining Democrats in that call.

The Trump administration insists the family separations are required under the law. But after signaling Monday that it would oppose any fix aimed solely at addressing the plight of children separated from their parents under the crackdown, the White House said Tuesday that it is reviewing emergency legislation being introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to keep migrant families together.


Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen declared, "Congress alone can fix it." That line has been echoed by others in the administration, including Trump, who has falsely blamed a law passed by Democrats for the "zero tolerance" approach to prosecutions of families crossing the border.

Two immigration bills under consideration in the House could address the separations, but the outlook for passage is dim. Conservatives say the compromise legislation that GOP leaders helped negotiate with moderates is inadequate.

The compromise bill shifts away from the nation's longtime preference for family immigration to a new system that prioritizes entry based on merits and skills. It beefs up border security, clamps down on illegal entries and reinforces other immigration laws.

To address the rise of families being separated at the border, the measure proposes keeping children in detention with their parents, undoing 2-decade-old rules that limit the time minors can be held in custody.

Faced with the prospect of gridlock in the House, senators appear willing to take matters into their own hands and drafting a 11th hour policy that can stop the separation at the border. Will everyone sign on? Recent history doesn't bode well and Trump knows this too well.

Political dealmaking is an idea whose golden moment has passed. In its place we have stubborn and powerful minorities who call the shots.

Like it or not, that stubborn minority is the White House.

(Reporting by Nikhila Natarajan, US)

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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 22:00:18 IST