Children could be separated from parents if families caught crossing border illegally

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The country "cannot take everyone on Earth who is in a hard situation", Sessions said, before referring to a Gallup poll that indicated 150 million people around the world want to immigrate to the United States.

"People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border".

In a speech before law-enforcement officials in Arizona on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government seeks to separate parents from their children at the U.S. -Mexico border in an effort to discourage more crossings.

"If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, then we're going to prosecute you", Sessions said.

Sessions also said that families who illegally cross the border may be separated after their arrest, with children sent to juvenile shelters while their parents are sent to detention facilities. "If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally". "But we can not take everyone on Earth who is in a hard situation".

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Last week, Sessions announced that the Justice Department was sending 35 assistant US attorneys to the southwestern border to to "prosecute illegal entries into our country", while 18 immigration judges would focus "full time" on clearing a backlog of asylum claims.

"This administration is set on tearing families apart, detaining immigrants without justification, leaving USA -born children without their parents and stoking fear in immigrant communities, all while siphoning off taxpayer dollars to fund a divisive and ineffective wall", according to a DNC statement. "We will continue to work with our partners in each U.S. Attorney's offices to aggressively pursue prosecutions of criminal illegal entry".

On Monday, Sessions said the Trump administration's actions were necessary because of "massive increases in illegal crossings in recent months".

"It's that simple", Sessions added, describing the new policy as zero tolerance.

The Trump administration has made a decision to refer every person caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution, a policy that could result in the separation of far more parents from their children at the border.

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