President Trump Bows To Bipartisan Pressure, Signs Executive Order To End Family Separation

The order could violate a decree that prohibits authorities from keeping children in immigration detention for more than 20 days.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to end family separation on the border just days after demanding that Congress pass legislation to end his administration's policy.

The Trump administration has come under intense scrutiny for what was widely condemned as a draconian immigration practice of separating children from their parents on the border when families were detained for illegal entry. Members of Congress of both parties, immigrant rights advocates, religious leaders and all five living First Ladies, including Melania Trump, criticized the practice in recent days. 

"It's about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border," President Trump said during the signing, per NBC. "We are going to have very strong borders but we are going to keep the families together... I didn't like sight of families being separated."

Yesterday, and in the weeks prior, Trump and administration officials like Secretary of Homeland Security Kirsten Nielsen repeatedly claimed only Congress could fix the problem. Previously, the president's Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this policy proudly, even citing Bible verses to defend it last week. Last month, chief of Staff John Kelly explained the policy as something that would deter immigrants from coming.

While previous administrations have separated families at the border under certain circumstances, the White House's "zero-tolerance" policy that called for detaining all illegal border crossers escalated the practice to unprecedented numbers. According to U.S. government estimates, as many as 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent months. President Trump's executive order will seek to keep families together during their prosecution for crossing the border illegally, according to administration officials who spoke to The Washington Post. The move could violate a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement, which prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention for more than 20 days.

"This issue is not divided along normal immigration lines," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, told A Plus last week. "Conservative and liberal commentators are just repulsed by the idea that a 2 or 3-year-old is being taken away from their parents and sitting in a facility without their parents."

Immigration experts expect that the president's executive order to end the separation of families at the border will be challenged in court.

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