President Trump on Wednesday sought to quell the uproar over his administration’s systematic separation of immigrant children from their families at the border, signing an executive order he portrayed as ending the problem.
However, Trump’s Executive Order explicitly states that the executive branch will continue to criminally prosecute people who cross the border illegally, signaling that the zero-tolerance policy remains in place. The only thing that changed was it is now the policy of the Trump administration to keep families together. It appears to envision a system in which families will be housed together in ad hoc detention centers, including on military bases, that the administration hopes a court will approve. Gene Hamilton, a counselor to Mr. Sessions, said that an “implementation phase” would happen but that he was not sure precisely what the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services would do.
Under the new plan, the official said, the entire family will stay in ICE’s hands. While the adults will still be prosecuted, that will prevent the need to immediately separate family members. The administration appears to be hoping that the courts or Congress will change the rules within 20 days, allowing families to be detained together indefinitely.
The most important part of Mr. Trump’s order set in motion a request to get a court to approve holding families together for longer than 20 days. The order directs Mr. Sessions to promptly ask a federal court to “modify” the consent agreement in a manner that would permit the Department of Homeland Security to hold families together throughout immigration court proceedings. At his press briefing, Mr. Hamilton said that unless Congress acted sooner to change the law, it would be up to Judge Gee to decide whether the administration could keep families together.
The administration initially said it would not try to reunite children and parents who were separated at the border under the zero-tolerance policy, according to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department. But the agency retreated later Wednesday evening, saying that “it is still very early, and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter.” More than 2,300 children were separated from their parents at the border and placed in government-licensed shelters or in temporary foster care with families across the country.
Mr. Trump likes the flourish of signing executive orders in front of cameras, but most of his have amounted to asking his administration to conduct reviews and come up with proposed solutions to problems, or they have consisted of directives that he could have instead made with a phone call. This is one of those orders.
For more: NY Times