Thursday 18 July, 2019

Migrant children: Trump to 'sign something' to end separations

(Image: AP: Trump speaks at the White House on 20 June 2018)

(Image: AP: Trump speaks at the White House on 20 June 2018)

President Donald Trump says he will sign an executive order later on Wednesday that will end the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the border illegally.

"We want to keep families together. It's very important," Trump told reporters during a White House meeting with members of Congress. "I'll be signing something in a little while that's going to do that."

The effort would mark a dramatic departure for an administration that has been insisting, wrongly, that it has no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of the law and a court decision.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the president and other officials have repeatedly said the only way to end the practice is for Congress to pass new legislation, though both Democrats and some Republicans have said the president could reverse it by himself.

(Image: AP)

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.

Trump pointed to those images in his meeting, saying they'd "affect everybody" but that he was torn. "We want the heart," he said, "but we also want strong borders and we want no crime."

Trump had tweeted earlier on Wednesday: "It's the Democrats fault, they won't give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation. They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!"

His administration recently put into place a "zero tolerance" policy in which all unlawful border crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the US Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

The policy had led to a spike in family separations in recent weeks, with more than 2,300 minors were separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The coming action, according to people familiar with it, wouldn't end the zero tolerance policy, but would aim to keep families together.

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