The Justice Department on Tuesday rescinded a Trump-era memo that established a "zero tolerance" enforcement policy for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued the new memo to federal prosecutors across the nation, saying the department would return to its longstanding previous policy and instructing prosecutors to act on the merits of individual cases.
"Consistent with this longstanding principle of making individualized assessments in criminal cases, I am rescinding — effective immediately — the policy directive," Wilkinson wrote.
Wilkinson said the department's principles have "long emphasized that decisions about bringing criminal charges should involve not only a determination that a federal offense has been committed and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction, but should also take into account other individualized factors, including personal circumstances and criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, and the probable sentence or other consequences that would result from a conviction."
The "zero tolerance" policy meant that any adult caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, families were separated and children were taken into custody by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which manages unaccompanied children at the border.