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Sessions expands on controversial 'zero tolerance' border policy

"If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It's that simple, If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently.

He was announcing a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to prosecute illegal border crossers. However, the announcement that children would be separated from their parents caught some people by surprise. Many civil rights and immigrants' advocates see the policy as draconian.

"These are children who have already suffered the trauma of violence and persecution in their native countries and the arduous journey to seek safety," said the head of Amnesty International USA. "Why in the world would the U.S. government institute a policy that would compound their distress by separating them from their families, claiming it's for their own good?"

And, since a large proportion of those arriving at our southern border are asylum seekers, it's fair to question whether the new policy will be used to separate asylum seeking parents from their children.

"We don't think the U.S. should be prosecuting asylum seekers, attempting to deter asylum seekers," said a spokesperson for the ACLU's immigrants' Rights Project. "We certainly don't think they should be prosecuting families with little children so the end result is these little children are sent off by themselves."

Yet Sessions sees a surge in illegal border crossing and wants a "zero tolerance" policy in response. Under previous administrations, people caught attempting to cross the border illegally were generally asked to plead guilty and were then deported. Sessions' new policy calls for 100 percent of illegal border crossers to be charged with improper entry and imprisoned -- and for their children to be sent to separate juvenile facilities. The offense is a misdemeanor carrying a potential sentence of up to six months behind bars.

Do you think separation from your children, perhaps for an extended period of time, is a fair punishment for illegally crossing a U.S. border?

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