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zero tolerance

Trump reluctantly returns to 'catch and release' for immigrants, for now

President Trump, judging by his words and actions, hates illegal immigration and any policy put in place by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. But like Obama, he is finding his immigration policy constrained by a 1997 consent decree, court rulings, and public opinion. So for now, The New York Times says, the Trump administration is "effectively returning to the 'catch and release' policy that President Trump promised to eliminate." Federal officials say border agents have stopped referring migrant parents with children for prosecution, and migrant parents with kids under 5 are being fitted with ankle bracelets and released into the community.

"Catch and release is a term with no legal definition and has been used as a pejorative alternative to jailing illegal immigrants," and ending the policy has been a top priority for Trump and the border agent union that endorsed him, the Times notes. "The use of ankle bands for migrant families may be short-lived," however.

In court on Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers told U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw that the Trump administration believes it can force migrant parents to choose between waiving their right to keep custody of their children while they await legal proceedings or agreeing to be detained as a family for more than the 20 days typically allowed under the Flores agreement consent decree. Sabraw said he would consider allowing that choice and asked the government lawyers and ACLU attorney representing the migrants what would happen if the parents declined to waive either right. ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said the parents would have to sue the government, but "we are hopeful the government will do the right thing."

In any case, the Health and Human Service Department, which houses the forcibly separated migrant kids, is preparing for a huge surge in child separations, diverting funding from other HHS programs, Slate reports, citing internal HHS documents.