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In reversal, Trump signs order stopping family separation

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — Bowing to pressure from anxious allies, President Donald Trump signed an executive order today ending the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the US border illegally.

It was a dramatic turnaround for Trump, who has been insisting, wrongly, that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision.

The news in recent days has been dominated by searing images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents — images that have sparked fury, question of morality and concern from Republicans about a negative impact on their races in November's midterm elections.

Until today, the president, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials had repeatedly argued the only way to end the practice was for Congress to pass new legislation, while Democrats said he could do it with his signature alone. That's what he did on Wednesday.

"We're going to have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together," said Trump who said he didn't like the "sight" or "feeling" of children separated from their parents.

He said his order would not end the "zero-tolerance" policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally. The order aims to keep families together while they are in custody, expedite their cases, and ask the Department of Defense to help house families.

Justice Department lawyers had been working to find a legal work around for a previous class-action settlement that set policies for the treatment and release of unaccompanied children who are caught at the border.

Still, Trump's order is likely to create a new set of problems involving length of detention of families, and may spark a fresh court fight.

Also playing a role in his turnaround is first lady, Melania Trump, one White House official said Mrs Trump had been making her opinion known to the president for some time that she felt he needed to do all he could to help families stay together, whether by working with Congress or acting on his own.

Nielsen travelled to Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon to brief lawmakers. And members on the fence over pending immigration legislation headed to the White House to meet with Trump.

Trump had tweeted earlier Wednesday, "It's the Democrats fault, they won't give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation. They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!"

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