Trump signs executive order ending separation of border-crossing families

June 21, 2018 GMT

Despite arguing for weeks that his administration had no choice but to divide families after they were detained crossing the southern U.S. border illegally, President Donald Trump conceded to immense political pressure and signed an executive order Wednesday meant to end the process of separating children from their parents.

After blaming Democrats on Twitter for not providing “the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation,” Trump signed the order amid a firestorm of public outcry after photographs of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents, were widely circulated by news organizations and on social media.

“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office. “I didn’t like the sight or feeling of families being separated.”

In addition to three members of the Idaho congressional delegation denouncing the separation of migrant children from their parents prior to Trump signing the order, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and the Boise City Council began their Tuesday regular meeting by issuing a resolution condemning the federal government’s policy by calling it “un-American.”

“We cannot in good conscience remain silent in the face of the administration’s repugnant policy and its sheer offensiveness to our community’s moral and ethical standards, and those of our nation,” a press release from the city about the resolution said.

More locally, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad said he was thrilled to learn the president had signed the executive order, adding that neither he nor the Pocatello City Council had discussed any proclamation prior to Trump’s executive order but could have entertained one at their next meeting in July had the policy continued.

Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England also said he hadn’t engaged any local representatives in official discussions about any proclamations. England called for support of the president, however, saying that Congress is long overdue in passing new immigration legislation.

“It’s one of those issues that people like to blame the president for and he’s just enforcing the laws that (Congress) has put in place,” England said. “It’s time for Congress to stand up and change the law. That being said, it takes time to change the law and in the interim something needed to be done for these families.”

England said the U.S. government is simply enforcing the laws already established by the previous administration, adding that “it certainly has become a humanitarian issue and we need do so something about it.”

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho Falls, decried the separation of migrant children from their parents.

“Children should not be separated from their families and the issue needs to be resolved quickly,” Crapo said. “I have consistently supported measures that would secure our borders and provide safety for those seeking asylum or to otherwise legally enter the United States.”

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, called the situation a “crisis.”

“Congressman Simpson has been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform for years,” Simpson’s spokeswoman, Nikki Wallace, said in a written statement. “The current system is clearly broken, and the status quo is unacceptable. The House is scheduled to vote on two immigration packages this week, and Congressman Simpson hopes that this and many other issues related to our immigration system will be addressed in order to put an end to this crisis.”

And Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, R-Boise, issued a statement supporting the Trump administration’s position, saying no family “entering the United States legally” should be separated.

“Senator Risch feels very strongly that no family entering the United States legally should ever be separated by the government,” Jim Risch‘s spokeswoman, Kaylin Minton, said in a written statement. “He also believes the issue of family separation needs to be addressed as part of broad immigration reform, because our existing laws are not working. No child should be punished for their parent’s decision. The senator has consistently supported legislation to secure our nation’s borders and ensure all immigration happens legally and in a safe manner for families entering our country. Both chambers of Congress are considering legislative proposals.”

Both Risch and Crapo signed on as co-sponsors Tuesday to proposed legislation from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would end family separations, establish new family detention facilities, and require both parents and children to be deported immediately if they can’t prove their legal cases for asylum within 14 days. The bill also would double the number of immigration judges from 375 to 750.

The separation of families at the border was a result of the Trump administration implementing a “zero tolerance” policy in which all unlawful border crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The policy had led to a spike in family separations in recent weeks, with more than 2,300 minors separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Children have been sent to facilities, some for “tender age” infants and toddlers, in Texas and as far as New York and Washington state.

Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, which did not require separation.

Though the executive order aims to keep families crossing the border together, Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of Department of Health and Human Services, told the New York Times on Tuesday that the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated will not immediately be reunited with their parents.

“There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases,” Wolfe said.

Kelly “Martinez” Rodriguez, an on-air personality for KORR 104 radio, echoed England’s sentiments regarding the difficulty of upholding the law while also doing what is right as a human being.

“I’m all for the law,” Rodriguez said. “But at what point do we have to look at the human element of things. When you are talking about children and bringing kids into the mix — taking them away from their moms and dads— something needs to be done. These are kids, man. They are the victims. The kids shouldn’t be punished.”