According to a memo issued on Tuesday by Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, federal prosecutors were directed to return to the previous policy of deciding whether to pursue individual cases, the Xinhua news agency reported.
“Consistent with this longstanding principle of making individualised assessments in criminal cases, I am rescinding — effective immediately — the policy directive,” Wilkinson wrote.
He said that decisions to prosecute should be based on whether a person violated federal law and what evidence was available to prove a violation.
“Today’s action restores to prosecutors their traditional discretion to make charging decisions based on a careful review of the particular facts and circumstances of individual immigration cases,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement.
Under the zero tolerance policy, effective from April 2018 to June 2018, all adults who illegally entered the US, including those with children, were referred for prosecution. Any children who had entered with those adults were separated from them and put into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The widely criticised policy led to the separation of more than 5,500 children from their parents, with no method for reuniting the children with their parents, some of whom were deported, according to a report.