Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Diagram: Rebecca Zisser, Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Nearly 2,000 child migrants have been separated from their parents in the six weeks following the implementation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Here's how it happens.

Bottom line: This started with the Justice Department’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border. But it was empowered by the Department of Homeland Security, which began forcibly separating families arrested for crossing the border in order to send the adults to DOJ for prosecution.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily morning newsletter, Axios AM. 

Let's break it down:

  1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the "zero-tolerance" policy earlier this year, which aggressively enforces the 1965 law that made illegal entry into the U.S. a federal misdemeanor. The goal of the new policy was to criminally prosecute 100% of immigrants caught illegally crossing the border.
  2. Shortly afterward, DHS announced that all immigration enforcement officers are to turn in any adult immigrant caught crossing the U.S. border illegally to DOJ for prosecution. With parents in federal custody, kids are forced to go elsewhere.
  3. Plus, a 2015 federal court ruling — which declared that no minors could be held in immigrant detention for more than 21 days — opened a legal door for DHS to keep detained parents separated from their kids.

This has led to heart-wrenching stories and audio of migrant children crying after being separated from their parents — a practice that has been condemned by the United Nations, lawmakers from both parties and human rights advocates.

The other side: DHS and DOJ continues to insist they are merely enforcing existing laws. "Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said yesterday.

Illegal crossing
  • If a family of immigrants is caught illegally crossing the border between ports of entry, because of Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy, they are first sent to an immigrant processing center.
  • Within 48 hours of apprehension, according to a Customs and Border Patrol pamphlet given to CNN, the adults will be criminally charged with entering the U.S. illegally and referred to the Department of Justice.
    • Yes, but: While the CBP handout said immigrants would be handed over within 48 hours, immigrants told lawmakers visiting a CBP immigrant processing center in McAllen, Texas, that they had been held there for seven days, according to CNN.
  • The children are placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The goal of the "zero-tolerance" policy is to prosecute 100% of those caught crossing the border illegally. DHS officials told reporters on a call on Friday that they do not yet refer 100% of the cases, but did not give any information on how they decide which immigrants to send to DOJ.

  • Before the policy, families were either released or held in ICE family detention centers until their hearing in front of an immigration judge. There were some successful Obama-era pilot programs that experimented with using ankle bracelets and other incentives for families to actually show up to their immigration court hearings.

What's next for the kids:

  • The children are placed in one of more than 100 temporary shelters in 17 states run by Health and Human Services, which takes care of both separated children and minors who illegally cross the border on their own. These are the kinds of shelters recently seen by reporters in Brownsville, Texas.
    • By the numbers: Many of these shelters are nearing capacity, and the U.S. government could end up holding up to 30,000 migrant children by the end of August if detention rates continue, the Washington Examiner reported.
  • HHS seeks to find relatives or foster families to take care of the children until they can be reunited with their parents.
  • If no suitable guardian is found, HHS by law must then keep the child in the "least restrictive" shelter that is in the best interest of the child until they can be reunited with their parents.

What's next for the parents:

  • They face criminal prosecution for crossing into the U.S. illegally. Most receive "time served" and remain in detention for at least a week, according to a DOJ official.
  • After they've served their time, they are returned to ICE custody. CBP claims they will be able to communicate with their kids via phone calls or video conferencing until their deportation.
  • Once in deportation proceedings, immigrants can apply for asylum and would need to prove fear of persecution by returning to their home country.
  • Parents are not guaranteed to be reunited with their children until deportation, but an ICE official told Axios that those decisions are determined on a case by case basis.
Legal crossing

There are 48 legal ports of entry along the Mexico-U.S. border, which are official, legal crossing points. A family unit can present proper non-immigrant visas and passports there and avoid any family separation.

Yes, but: While crossing at ports of entry avoids the ramifications of the 100% prosecution strategy of DOJ, they will still likely spend time in detention, and there have been reports of immigration officers turning asylum-seekers away before they even reach ports of entry.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

10 mins ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

GOP operatives accused of funneling Russian cash to Trump

Jesse Benton, spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters in the spin room after the CNN Debate on January 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

A former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul was indicted this month for allegedly funneling $25,000 from a wealthy, unnamed Russian to former President Trump's reelection efforts.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 for the next fiscal year beginning in October, the State Department confirmed in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The move comes as the U.S. contends with resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees stateside, and as the world faces "unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs," the department wrote.