After his administration initiated a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border for people trying to enter the country that sparked an international outcry following the separation of families, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep families together at the border, The New York Post reports.
“It’s about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border,” Trump said of the order after okaying it on Wednesday.
Government officials familiar with early drafts of the executive order spoke to NBC News about how the order is supposed to allow families to be detained together, but the “zero tolerance” policy of charging people with a misdemeanor for entering illegally would remain and continue to be enforced.
Trump’s order to keep families together in detention brings back recent memories from the surge of Central American migrants in 2014 fleeing situations in which death was a certainty. Barack Obama tried to keep asylum-seeking mothers with their children during his presidency before a court ruled against the practice in July 2015. Time explains that the courts struck down the Obama Administration practice, however, and the Trump Administration justified the separation of families policy by referring to legal precedent.
Following about a week of heavy and negative media coverage across the globe, Congressional Republicans were ready to do something before their own poll numbers potentially dropped. “A zero tolerance policy is exactly correct, I think a family reunification policy is exactly correct,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told reporters Wednesday, who remained skeptical of a longer term solution without Congressional action because “there probably will be legal challenges to the president’s executive order.” He concluded by saying “it’s important to have the backstop of congressional action to be able to preserve this family unity goal.”
Cornyn was referring to a 1997 legal precedent called the Flores settlement, of which he thinks the administration is in violation. Children may not be detained for more than 20 days, even if they are with their parents, The Texas Tribune reports. Along with the 2015 court case that the Obama administration lost, a 2016 Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruling decided that the Flores settlement “unambiguously applies both to minors who are accompanied and unaccompanied by their parents.”
Trump kicked off his campaign in June of 2015 by making blanket statements about immigrants, more specifically Mexicans, falsely casting the majority of Mexican immigrants as criminals. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” then-candidate Trump claimed without citing any evidence. He’s called MS-13 gang members “animals” in a continuation of what many critics believe are statements that can actually dehumanize all migrants and not just the violent ones. Just this week, he tweeted, without citing any evidence, that the Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country.” Trump wants Congress to provide $25 billion of funding upfront for his proposed border wall along the southern border. During the campaign, he insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall.