Trump backtracks and signs executive order to stop separating families
JUN 21, 2018: First lady Melania Trump touched down in McAllen, Texas, Thursday, making an unannounced trip to get a first-hand look at the crisis affecting immigrant families at the US border. Ms. Trump’s dash comes as President Trump, facing an avalanche of outrage, on Wednesday signed an executive order to stop more migrant children from being separated from their parents at the southern border.
“We’re signing an executive order. I consider it to be a very important executive order. It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border and border security will be equal, if not greater than previously,” Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“So we’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he added. “I think the word ‘compassion’ comes into it, but it’s still equally as tough if not tougher.”
It was unclear what would happen to the 2,300 kids already taken from their families.
The first lady’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN during a 10-minute press briefing en route to Texas that, “She wants to see what’s real…She wanted to see as close to what she had been seeing on TV. She wants to see a realistic view of what’s happening.”
Trump, who until Wednesday had defiantly refused to change his policy, admitted that photos of kids taken from their parents and placed in detention centers — which sparked a firestorm of criticism — played a role in his abrupt about-face.
“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” he said at the signing, echoing earlier comments at a meeting with GOP lawmakers.
“Those images affect everybody. But I have to say, you have double standards. You have people that want absolute security and safety, and you have people that do look at the children and then you have people like me, and I think most of the people in this room, they want both,” he said.
The order instructs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to petition the federal court in California to modify a settlement agreement in a 1997 immigration case known as Flores vs. Reno, which limited how long migrant children can be detained.
The Trump administration wants to extend the current 20-day limit so that the kids can remain with their parents, even in detention facilities.
The facilities have all but dominated the news for days on end, causing heated political battles from the White House to Capitol Hill, ricocheting around the world in an uproar of disbelief and consternation.
Acting or commenting from the sidelines apparently was not enough for the First Lady, who fewer than 48 hours ago informed her staff — and her husband, the President of the United States — that she had decided she needed to see for herself the family intake and unaccompanied children facilities.
“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” said First Lady’s spokeswoman, according to CNN.
Officials said it was not clear whether families would again be separated after 20 days if the administration loses its court appeal in Flores vs. Reno.