Trump signs executive order stopping family separation policy

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 that halts
his administration’s family separation policy for families who have crossed the
U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

executive order seeks to work around a 1997 consent decree that bars the
federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if
they are with their parents — for more than 20 days. The executive order instructs the attorney general to seek federal court permission to modify the consent decree.

crisis was spawned when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance”
policy for border crossers. Under the policy, adults would be charged with a
felony rather than a misdemeanor for crossing the border. Under federal
statute, those charged with felonies cannot have their children detained with

The government
earlier in June said 1,995 minors had been separated from 1,940 adults who had
crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, although some minors had crossed without their
parents or adult kin.

The policy
and its upshot stirred some of the most hostile reaction yet of any Trump initiative.

before the executive order was signed, Pope Francis said he stood with the U.S.
bishops, who had condemned the family separation policy, which has led to
children being held in government shelters while their parents are sent to
federal prisons.

bishops likewise decried the policy. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
was heckled June 19 while she dined at a Mexican restaurant in the Washington

Every living former first lady and the current first lady, Melania Trump — herself an immigrant from
Slovenia — expressed their sorrow, or a stronger emotion, at the sight of
children being separated from their parents.

wife feels strongly about it. I feel strongly about it. I think anybody with a
heart would feel strongly about it,” Trump said during the June 20 signing
ceremony in the Oval Office, with Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence
flanking him.

“I don’t
like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump added. “This
will solve that problem and at the same time we are keeping a very strong border.”

Even so, the executive order is not necessarily a panacea. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to detain families together “under present resource constraints.” The “temporary detention policy” also is only in effect “to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations.”

criticized those who make a “false choice” between being “a nation of laws” and
showing compassion.

expect the House to act this week. We expect them to do their job,” Nielsen
said. The House is considering two immigration bills, although neither dealt in
particular with the family separation policy.

will have a lot of happy people,” Trump said as he signed the executive order. “What
we have done today is we are keeping families together.”

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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