Zero tolerance policies have been spreading throughout America for the past 40 years, wreaking havoc wherever and whenever they’ve been tried. That’s because their fundamental premise is that the cause they aim to advance is so righteous that authorities have impunity to go after minor offenses with maximal force.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the results would be deeply ugly now that the Trump administration has deployed a zero-tolerance policy against the world’s most powerless people: fleeing migrants.
Zero tolerance became all the rage in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan launched his War on Drugs, and the smallest drug offenses got treated like existential threats to the fabric of American society. This led to mandatory minimum sentencing laws that turned America into the incarceration capital of the world by stripping judges of any discretion in keeping sentences commensurate with the crime. The upshot has been that nonviolent drug offenders like Alice Johnson, whom President Trump granted clemency to this week after 20 years in jail, got a life-without-parole sentence. There are millions like her languishing in jail.
Meanwhile, civil asset forfeiture policies, the other gift of the zero tolerance approach to drugs, handed law enforcement officials the power to confiscate any physical asset they suspected of being used in a crime without bothering to obtain convictions. Despite a massive public outcry, forfeiture spread like wildfire and became a standard part of policing — no doubt because the seized assets are lucrative for law enforcement salaries and budgets.
Reagan, a Republican, invoked zero tolerance policies to fight drugs. A few years later, Bill Clinton, a Democrat, invoked them to fight guns in schools. Soon enough, schools used zero tolerance to fight every classroom ill from drugs to unruly behavior.
Stories of toddlers and teens suspended, expelled, and even prosecuted for the most trivial offenses — like bringing nail clippers and scissors to school — are legion. An eighth-grade girl was booted out for giving a Midol without prescription to a friend experiencing menstrual cramps. An 11-year-old autistic, black kid who kicked a can in anger was handcuffed, charged, and prosecuted for disorderly conduct. The worst hit are poor, minority kids who can’t afford expensive lawyers to fight back when expelled or charged, prompting the ACLU to dub such zero tolerance policies for minors a “school-to-prison pipeline.”
But none of this compares to the hideousness transpiring at the border, where this administration has unleashed zero tolerance policy against desperate migrants fleeing poverty and violence.
Unlike previous administrations, which handed first-time border-crossers to ICE for deportation, the Trump administration has pledged to criminally prosecute “100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings” before deporting them — despite the fact that immigration prosecutions already constitute half of all federal prosecutions. Even asylum seekers, a group protected by both domestic and international law, are not spared if they are caught between ports.
The point of prosecuting prior to deportation is to create a criminal record against these folks so that if …read more
Source:: The Week – Politics