Trump Says He'll End Family Separation Policy He Claimed He Couldn't Change

President Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican members of Congress on immigration in the Cabinet Room of the White House Wednesday

President Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican members of Congress on immigration in the Cabinet Room of the White House Wednesday. AP

President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed his debunked argument that he had no authority to stop separations of undocumented immigrant families at the border, signing an executive order to keep parents and kids together.

The executive order would work around an existing consent decree, called the Flores settlement, that prohibits children from being kept in immigration detention, even with their parents, for more than 20 days, according to the report. In recent days, the Republican president had insisted his hands were tied by law on the issue of family separations and had sought to blame Democrats, although it was his administration that implemented the policy of strict adherence to immigration law.

The plan, as described by administration officials, would keep families together in federal custody while awaiting prosecution for illegal border crossings, potentially violating a 1997 court settlement limiting the duration of child detentions.

One final point: Each and every child taken into US custody must be accounted for and returned to his or her parent.

Despite the order, there was no plan in place to reunite the thousands of children already separated from their families, according to multiple USA media reports, citing officials from the Health and Human Services Department.

The House is expected to vote Thursday on a pair of immigration proposals. It seems the anti-immigrant hard-liners have made a decision to fight Flores, the result being the incarceration of families for weeks or even months.


ORR has 100 sites scattered across 17 states, which means children can be on the other side of the country from their parents.

When asked specifically about the images of children being taken from their parents at immigration centers, Trump said that the images affected him. "That's a tough dilemma", Trump said.

"We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America, or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry", he said. In addition, the decree constricts the definition of family to parents and children, excluding aunts, grandparents and other loved ones.

The policy of separating children from their parents who have illegally entered the US and been detained had existed for years before President Donald Trump took office. "I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated", the president announced Wednesday afternoon.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is drafting the executive action that would direct the Department of Homeland Security to detain families together after crossing the border without authorization, the Associated Press reports.

Though the language of the order blames Congress's "failure to act" for having to separate families in the first place, its signing comes after widespread resistance, including from Trump's own party and from national protests held last week under the banner Families Belong Together.


Meanwhile, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein - the UN's top human rights official - essentially accused the United States of committing child abuse.

Tuesday's huddle between Trump and Republican lawmakers will be closely watched, in part to see whether any of them dare to directly confront the president.

Prior to Trump's remarks, White House aides refused to comment on rumors of an executive order and Republicans on Capitol Hill seemingly had no knowledge of a coming executive action.

The furor over the family separations and the chaotic White House response are engulfing Republicans less than five months before November elections that will determine whether the GOP remains in control of Congress.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a member of the House Freedom Caucus, says he doesn't like compromise bill "because it's all compromising in one direction".


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