President Donald Trump, under mounting political pressure from angry members of his own party, signed an executive order Wednesday reversing his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border and allowing families to instead be detained together. “It’s about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border,” Trump said.
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 June 20, 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. “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 workaround 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.
The Hindu American Foundation, in response to Trump’s earlier actions, called them “unconscionable.” In a statement issued June 19, HAF said: “As immigrants or children of immigrants, as parents, as Hindus, we can find no legal, moral, or ethical justification for such actions.”
HAF’s Indian American executive director Suhag Shukla added: “Hindus place great importance on the family. Whether attempting to enter the United States to seek asylum, fleeing violence in their home country, or seeking better economic opportunities, separating children from their parents is abhorrent. Treating young, vulnerable children in such a degraded way is beyond not only Hindu values, but American values.”