Trump backs down on controversial migrant family separations policy
Washington, Jun 21 : President Donald Trump today reversed his controversial decision on immigration by signing an executive order to end the separation of immigrant families on the US-Mexico border, after images of children in cages and audio of them crying for their parents sparked global outrage.
“I did not like the sight of families being separated,” Trump said while signing the executive order at the White House, but added the administration would continue its “zero tolerance policy” of criminally prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally.
Trump signed the executive order following widespread protests against the move of his administration to separate children from their parents who illegally enter the country. In recent weeks, more than 2,500 such children were separated from their parents.
“We’re keeping families together, and this will solve that problem. At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
The executive order, signed by Trump, asks the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together while people await trial for illegal border crossing. But cases where there is a concern that parents “would pose a risk to the child’s welfare” have been exempted from the executive order.
Trump said the executive order is about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that they have a very powerful and strong border. “And border security will be equal, if not greater than previously. We are going to have very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he said.
Trump’s climbdown came after he faced intense pressure from across the political spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders to halt the separations, which led to days of heartrending news coverage of crying children — some of whom were kept in cage-like detention centres.
The US first lady Melania Trump and the president’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump had urged Trump to end family separations on the border.
Yesterday, Pope Francis, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had described the Trump administration’s policy as wrong.
The shift in Trump’s thinking came an hour after Speaker Paul Ryan said the House of Representatives would vote today on a compromise between conservative and moderate Republican lawmakers that would address the issue of family separations, US media reported.
Meanwhile, Trump’s opponents are not satisfied with the executive order, asserting that it was not enough to address the crisis.
“The President’s Executive Order seeks to replace one form of child abuse with another. Instead of protecting traumatised children, the President has directed his Attorney General to pave the way for the long-term incarceration of families in prison-like conditions,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi said using terrified small children as “leverage” to push the President’s anti-immigrant agenda represents an “unspeakably appalling moral low-point for our nation”.
Top Democratic leader Congressman Joe Crowley said while this order stops the separation of children from their parents, it does not end the administration’s despicable policy of unreasonably detaining asylum seekers and families fleeing violence.
“Instead of pushing legislation that endorses the Trump administration’s policy of detaining families, House Republicans should join Democrats in calling for an end to the policy and in making sure we reunite the families that have been ripped apart,” he said.
Indian-American lawmakers have also slammed President Trump for his new executive order that calls for indefinite detention of families who illegally enter the country even though it stopped the practice of separation of children from their parents.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said Trump’s new executive order allows for indefinite detention of families which is absolutely unacceptable. She said immigrant internment camps are “cruel and inhumane”.
“Moreover, lengthy or unnecessary detention of children has been ruled unlawful. The zero-tolerance policy itself must end.
“If the Trump administration wants to now detain families during a criminal court case, that is unprecedented and will likely be challenged in court. Family separation is wrong. So is throwing families in jail,” Jayapal said.
Senator Kamala Harris from California said the executive order does not fix the crisis.
“Indefinitely detaining children with their families in camps is inhumane and will not make us safe,” she said.
“This executive order in no way deals with reuniting the 2,300 children who have been torn away from their parents and remain separated. When will they see their parents again? They must be reunited immediately,” Harris said.
Congressman Ro Khanna said Trump’s executive order will still result in humans being locked behind bars.
“I’m glad these children will no longer be torn from their parents’ arms, but this is “solution” doesn’t come close to fixing the problem. We demand more!” he said.
Khanna said Trump’s executive order is a very small nod towards decency by ending the barbaric practice of separating children from their parents.
“But it simply just replaces one problem with another by locking up families in detainment together,” he said.