Trump overstates order on family separation

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump

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 USA border.

But in the immediate aftermath of the order - which was drafted, signed and posted all within just a few hours on Wednesday - questions arose about what practical effect the order really had.

"We're going to keep families together, but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don't stand for", Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

"She wants to see what's real", said Grisham.

"Children are now being held in facilities that are often at opposite ends of the country from their parents, and there appears to be no system for reuniting these families". He did call on Congress to alleviate the plight of the separated children - but reiterated that his hands were tied.

"A person's dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee". Tomorrow? "We'll find out".

Virginia's governor ordered state officials to investigate abuse claims by children at an immigration detention facility who said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked up for long periods in solitary confinement and left nude and shivering in concrete cells. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, told Trump he could change the situation with the stroke of a pen. "Frankly, I think the way the order is drafted is not executable", said John Sandweg, a former director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Reunification is always the ultimate goal of those entrusted with the care of [unaccompanied children], and the administration is working towards that for those [unaccompanied children] now in HHS custody".

"But we have to have strong borders". More than 2,300 minors were taken from their parents between early May and early June, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security. "We have housed refugees". Assessments for possible detention facilities at military bases have already been done in Texas and another is expected in Arkansas on Thursday.

Kevin Clarke, spokesman for Naval Air Station-Kingsville, said there are no plans to bring immigrant families to the base. But HHS has assessed four as prospective housing for children: Fort Bliss, Goodfellow Air Force Base and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, and Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.

What does the executive order say?

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.

Despite the president's order, Schey said he was concerned that several thousand children have already been separated from their parents "without the Trump administration having any effective procedures in place to reunite children with their parents, many of whom have already been deported".

Brookings Institution senior fellow Bill Galston, a presidential scholar and a Clinton White House official, described it as "classic blame shifting" in the face of mounting bipartisan criticism and amid heartbreaking tales of toddlers kept from their parents.

"The optics of what's happening here directly at the border isn't something that he wants to have on his watch, but at the end of the day, he still wants to focus the attention of Congress on the fundamental need for immigration reform in the United States", said Pappas, 53.

But there is confusion over how the new guidelines will play out and concern that they don't go far enough, allowing children to still be held in detention even if they remain with their families.

Bills have been introduced in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle with the goal of reversing the family separation policy.

Explaining his decision, he said: "I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated".

The federal public defender's office for the region that covers cases from El Paso to San Antonio said Thursday the U.S. Attorney's Office would be dismissing cases in which parents were charged with illegally entering or re-entering the country and were subsequently separated from their children.

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