Trump relents, issues order to stop separation of illegal families
21 June 2018
US President Donald J Trump on Wednesday said he will use his existing executive authority to address family separation of illegal alien border-crossers. But, he said, he is committed to protecting the nation’s borders during a historic influx of illegal alien border crossers, while taking action under current legal constraints to prevent the separation of illegal alien families.
The administration’s move comes after withering criticism for its heavy-handed and cold-hearted response to an immigration crisis following the implementation of its zero-tolerance policy that has resulted in children being forcibly separated from Central and South American parents who illegally cross the border.
In an ironic twist to the anti-immigrant stance of the President and his team, the US also announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council for unrelated reasons, denouncing it as a “cesspool of political bias.” (See: US withdraws from United Nations Human Rights Council
President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that allows the administration to continue to protect the border with zero-tolerance policy, while also avoiding the separation of illegal alien families, as far as possible under the law.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will seek an immediate modification of the Flores settlement agreement, which prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from detaining families together for more than 20 days.
Under the current settlement agreement, the government cannot hold illegal alien families together past 20 days, meaning a child must not be separated from its parent if the parent remains in custody.
An estimated 5,00,000 illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America have been released into the United States since 2014 as the US immigration authorities do not follow a policy of deporting such immigrants held for illegal entry.
The executive order also calls for the prioritisation of immigration cases involving families and directs the administration to expand family detention capacity.
“Current loopholes in federal law prevent detention and removal as a family unit — leading to separations and mass catch-and-release….Despite the clear need for legislative action, Congressional Democrats have refused to come to the table and work with the President in good faith to address the issue of family separation. Instead, they are intent on furthering their agenda of open borders and trying to release all illegal alien families and minors who show up at the border,” the President said.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) refused to back the legislation, saying “legislation is not the way to go here.” Congressional Democrats also blocked efforts to detain and remove families together.
Trump said lawmakers must still pass legislation to secure the border and to finally and fully allow family and minor detention and prompt removal.
The President has taken action to address the immediate issue by detaining families together for as long as he can legally do so under Flores, and now expects Congress to work quickly to address permanently the crisis at our border,” he said, add8ing, “The United States cannot have a border that is open to illegal aliens.”
The President’s frustration that ending it could simply send a signal to illegal immigrants that they can continue to make a beeline to the US border was transparent.
"The dilemma is that if you're weak, if you're weak, which some people would like you to be, if you're really, really pathetically weak, the country's going to be overrun with millions of people. And if you're strong, then you don't have any heart. That's a tough dilemma. Perhaps I would rather be strong, but that's a tough dilemma,” he told lawmakers in a White House meeting that culminated in his administration backing down.