President Trump Signs Order To End Family Separations At Border
23 June, 2018, 04:52 | Author: Diane Mills
On Tuesday Homeland Security officials said they separated 2,342 children from their parents along the border between May 5 and June 9, reclassifying them as "Unaccompanied Alien Children" and placing them in foster care with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Anastasia Tonello, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the detention of families - parents and children - who pose no flight risk or danger to the community is simply "unacceptable, abrogates global responsibilities to refugees, and goes against our country's most fundamental values".
"The Trump Administration must reverse its policy of prosecuting vulnerable people fleeing three of the most risky countries on earth, who are attempting to seek safe haven in America".
Trump's decision to reverse course comes despite the fact that administration officials have insisted for days that only Congress could fix the problem.
With emotions running high, a handful of House Democrats protested the Trump meeting, yelling out at Trump in a rare face-to-face demonstration against a president by sitting members of Congress. "If an American were to commit a crime, they would be referred to jail and separated from their family", she said.
"I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated", said Trump.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since last month. Trump's daughter Ivanka thanked her father on Twitter for "taking critical action ending family separation at our border".
"We will keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough", he said.
Signing an executive order to reverse his own administration's practice would also be unnecessary since nearly everyone in Washington, apart from the President, agrees that he already has the power to end the separations any time he wants. Melania Trump has had several private conversations with her husband, pushing him to do all he can to keep families at the border intact, whether via a legislative route, or acting alone to stop the process, the official said.
It is uncertain if Mr Trump's support will be enough to push any legislation through the divided Republican majority.
Every day, child welfare agencies across America make hard decisions to separate children from their parents.
The last-minute decision came at almost the same moment the House killed another more conservative immigration bill - also supported by Trump and GOP leaders - by a vote of 193-to-231. But a new information-sharing agreement allows Homeland Security to obtain personal information on all potential sponsors, including their immigration status, a change that advocates say will have a chilling effect that discourages those living in the country illegally from picking up the children.
Trump's said the order does not alter the "zero tolerance" policy itself that the administration put in place in April.
Wednesday's order included the caveat that immigration authorities will not detain families together if "there is a concern that detention of an alien child with the child's alien parent would pose a risk to the child's welfare".
"The administration still plans to criminalize families - including children - by holding them in prison-like detention facilities". "We are especially heartbroken and enraged by stories of breastfeeding children being taken from their mothers' embrace". The delay came after some GOP lawmakers demanded more time to review the 299-page bill, which would dramatically revamp immigration policy.
A 2015 court order now prevents the federal government from detaining children with their parents in detention centers for more than 20 days.
The compromise bill in the House shifts away from the nation's longtime preference for family immigration to a new system that prioritizes entry based on merits and skills.
"We need to embrace our legacy as a safe haven for the persecuted and stop subjecting bona-fide refugees to further trauma by locking them up while they pursue their lawful claims to relief", Tonello said.
And members on the fence over pending immigration legislation headed to the White House to meet with Trump.
Justice Department lawyers have been working to find a legal workaround for a class-action lawsuit settlement that set policies for the treatment and release of unaccompanied children who are caught at the border, or crafting an order that would defy the settlement and force it back into court to argue for changes.
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If those options are exhausted, authorities must find the "least restrictive" setting for a child who arrived without parents. Trump's order is already facing stiff resistance from lawmakers and may face an uphill court battle.
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