On Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump signed an executive order that will end the separation of migrant children from their families after his administration’s immigration policy faced condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats and massive outrage from millions of Americans. The executive order, which was drafted by Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security Secretary, will instead lock families up together. Trump said that while his decision to sign the executive order will make a lot of people happy, his “zero-tolerance immigration policy” would remain in effect.
“We’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem,” Trump said to reporters at the White House. “At the same time, we’re keeping a very powerful border. It continues to be…zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”
While the Trump administration has been pinning the policy of separating children from their families on Congress, there has never been any such law on the books and instead, was a policy created by the current administration at the beginning of this year.
“Trump can sign all the executive orders he wants,” Stephen Miles, Win Without War director, said on Twitter. “It won’t change the fact that his administration…chose to rip infants out of their parents arms in an effort to terrorize people seeking safety and refuge. A choice that reveals who he really is.”
The executive order, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” requires the administration “to maintain family unity,” and requests families be kept together in a detention center “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” “families together until the end of their immigration proceedings,” CNN reported. The new policy also authorizes the Attorney General’s office “promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions,” ThinkProgress reported, “thereby allowing officials to keep immigrant families detained in prison facilities together throughout criminal proceedings.”
Many question how the executive order will actually play out. As the New York Times reported and ThinkProgress wrote: “the order is expected to try and circumvent the current Flores settlement, a 1997 federal consent decree that requires immigrant children be released from detention after 20 days. There is no requirement in that settlement that says parents cannot be released from detention with them.”
Trump’s “sudden surrender” is being equated to condemnation from human rights groups calling the Trump administration’s policy “egregious practices,” ThinkProgress reported.
“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a United Nations’ top human rights official, said to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday. “…People do not lose their human rights by virtue of crossing a border without a visa. I deplore the adoption by many countries of policies intended to make themselves as inhospitable as possible by increasing the suffering of many already vulnerable people.”
With around 2,300 children now separated from their families under the Trump administration’s prior policy, there has been no official words when they will be reunited with their families nor is there a long-term plan in place for those families who are detained, CNN reported.
Through much investigation and reporting one thing is clear, Trump wasn’t forced by any existing law to separate children from their families because with one stroke of the pen, Trump put a halt to his own administration’s controversial policy.