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Latest immigration debate shows ‘sharp divide’ in America

(File, Associated Press)

The Trump administration’s decision to separate people who illegally cross the border from their children resulted in what former state Attorney General Rob McKenna calls a “really outrageous situation.”

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McKenna, a Republican, says the party was divided over the zero-tolerance policy on illegal border crossings that separated more than 2,000 children from their parents.

On Wednesday, June 20, President Trump signed an executive order to stop the separations. However, the damage has already been done, Gov. Jay Inslee says.

McKenna says the purpose of the zero-tolerance policy was to discourage people from trying to cross borders without the proper documentation. But the decision to criminally prosecute those that did created the mess we see today. Children can’t be prosecuted, McKenna points out. Plus, families who are caught illegally trying to enter the United States are supposed to be kept together and are only supposed to be detained for 20 days, he added.

“So that makes the idea of criminally prosecuting everyone who crosses the border illegally problematic,” McKenna said.

Because of the high standards of the country’s justice system, McKenna says it’s unlikely the courts can hear immigration cases fast enough. The alternative, he says, is to detain and deport people who try to enter the country illegally, without prosecuting them.

“What we’re seeing in the immigration debate is a sharp divide in America between people who say, look, we have laws, we’re a nation of laws and we can’t have open borders. No country has open borders. And people who cross [illegally] are breaking the law and subject to prosecution.”

The other point of view is that people are coming in to protect themselves and their families and should not be criminally prosecuted.

One group calls people who enter illegally undocumented immigrants. The other calls them illegal immigrants.

On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called it a “moral crisis.”

“I will say to you, as a former federal prosecutor … nothing we are doing today makes our country any safer. Instead, it degrades the moral conscious of our country.”

As the debate over how to handle people illegally crossing into the country continues, children who are separated from their families are being turned over to Health and Human Services and eventually placed with sponsor families. Officials have said they are working to reunite families, but there are no clear answers on how that will happen.

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