Under pressure for several weeks, US President Donald Trump has today signed an executive order to end the separation of immigrant families at the US/Mexico border.
Over recent days, the controversial policy has triggered a tidal wave of backlash from the public, media, government officials, celebrities (including Trump’s wife Melania) and even the Pope, who tweeted that embracing asylum seekers was “an act of humanity”.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 20, 2018
This morning Trump backflipped, claiming the footage and audio of traumatised children taken from parents had compelled him to change his mind about the policy he’d created.
“It’s about keeping families together,” he said at the signing ceremony on Wednesday.
“I did not like the sight of families being separated,” but added the administration would continue its “zero tolerance policy” of criminally prosecuting individuals deemed to be crossing the border illegally.
The executive order outlines that immigrant families be detained together, except in cases where the child’s welfare is in doubt. However, it fails to specify the timeframe for this. Trump will likely face challenges legislating this reform in its current form as it appears to violate the 1997 Flores settlement prohibiting the detaining of children for more than twenty days.
The executive order also fails to act retrospectively for children already separated from parents. More than 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their families since early May– their parents are held in facilities near the border like McAllen, Texas while they are sent to foster-care homes as far as New York and Michigan.
“The executive order that President Trump signed is no solution,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Women’s Refugee Commission Migrant Rights and Justice program, in a statement. “First, there are more than 2,000 children already separated from their parents. This EO does nothing to address that nightmare.”
— The Hill (@thehill) June 20, 2018
The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump sparked ridicule this morning after publicly praising her father for ending the policy which he, himself started.
Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border. Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values;the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) June 20, 2018
On American news channel MSNBC last night, news anchor Rachel Maddow wept on air while reading about specific cases of young children and babies being torn from their mothers at the border.