U.S. Customs and Border Protection has temporarily stopped referring illegal immigrant families over to the Department of Justice, commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced on Monday. The "catch-and-release" policy, practiced under the Bush and Obama administrations, is now being utilized while the government scrambles to comply with federal laws.
The decision was made due to detention facilities filling up while authorities are working out how to prosecute illegal immigrant adults without separating them from their accompanied children, following President Donald Trump's recent executive order to keep families together at the border.
What are the details?
Commissioner McAleenan told reporters in Texas that within hours of President Trump's executive order last week, he ordered referrals to the DOJ to be suspended. While the CBP chief said that the administration's "zero tolerance" policy is still in place, authorities have to figure out how to resume prosecutions without separating children from their parents.
In the meantime, adults who illegally enter the U.S. without children in tow will still continue to be prosecuted, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Speaking to convention of school resource officers in Reno, Nevada, Sessions said, "The president has made it clear: we are going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally, but we are going to do everything in our power to avoid separating families."
What did the White House say?
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Monday that the prosecution of families at the border had been temporarily halted, saying, "This will only last a short amount of time because we're going to run out of space. We're going to run out of resources to keep people together.
"We're not changing the policy. We're simply out of resources."
Trump also briefly addressed the issue from a broad perspective, saying, "We want a system where when people come in illegally, they have to get out — a nice simple system that works.
"We want strong borders, and we want no crime."