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6:38 PM / Saturday September 24, 2022

22 Jun 2018

In reversal, Trump orders halt to his family separation rule

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June 22, 2018 Category: Week In Review Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  (Shutterstock)

 

By Jill Colvin and Colleen Long

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Bowing to pressure from anxious allies, President Donald Trump abruptly reversed himself Wednesday and signed an executive order halting his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border.

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It was a dramatic turnaround for Trump, who has been insisting, wrongly, that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision.

The order does not end the “zero-tolerance” policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally. But it would keep families together while they are in custody, expedite their cases and ask the Defense Department to help house them. It also doesn’t change anything yet for the some 2,300 children taken from their families since the policy was put into place.

The news in recent days has been dominated by searing images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents — images that have sparked fury, question of morality and concern from Republicans about a negative impact on their races in November’s midterm elections.

Until Wednesday, the president, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials had repeatedly argued the only way to end the practice was for Congress to pass new legislation, while Democrats said Trump could do it with his signature alone. That’s just what he did.

“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” said Trump, who added that he didn’t like the “sight” or “feeling” of children separated from their parents.

Under a previous class-action settlement that set policies for the treatment and release of minors caught at the border, families can only be detained for 20 days. A senior Justice Department official said that hasn’t changed.

“This is a stopgap measure,” said Gene Hamilton, counsel to the attorney general. Justice lawyers were planning to file a challenge to the agreement, known as the Flores settlement, asking that a judge allow for the detention of families until criminal and removal proceedings are completed.

So Trump’s order is likely to create a fresh set of problems and may well spark a new court fight. It’s unclear what happens if no changes to law or the settlement take place by the time families reach the detainment deadline. The language also leaves room to separate children from parents if it’s best for the child’s welfare.

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