The Latest: HHS says families won’t be immediately reunited

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and immigration (all times local):

7 p.m.

An official with Health and Human Services says the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the border as a result of a zero-tolerance policy on illegal crossings won’t be immediately reunited with their families.

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the department’s Administration for Children and Families, says their cases will proceed through the system.

The children who are separated from their families are turned over to HHS within 72 hours and are then categorized as unaccompanied minors who are eventually placed with sponsors. Officials have said they were working to reunite families as soon as possible but provided no clear answers on how that was going to happen.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that stopped the separations.


5:40 p.m.

A senior Justice Department official says President Donald Trump’s executive order is a stopgap measure to end the separation of families as they cross the border illegally and face criminal prosecution.

Gene Hamilton, the Counselor to the Attorney General, says Homeland Security officials can only detain families for up to 20 days. He says that hasn’t changed, but lawyers will file a challenge to a settlement that governs how children caught at the border are treated. He says they will ask the judge to allow for detention of families indefinitely.

Trump signed an order Wednesday that prioritized cases of families who cross the border illegally, and directed Homeland Security officials to detain them together.


5:35 p.m.

A spokesman says the Health and Human Services Department is paying up to $775 a day per child to house some migrant children.

Ken Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, said that’s the average estimated cost for children in temporary shelters. The cost isn’t related to whether the children were separated from parents, but to the type of federal facility they’re in.

Wolfe says permanent shelters cost less, $256 a day per child.

Temporary shelters cost more because they must be set up in short order.

HHS is caring for about 11,800 migrant children, of which about 8 in 10 arrived without a parent.

Kids are in HHS custody typically about 60 days before being placed with a sponsor, usually a parent or relative.


5:30 p.m.

New York City’s mayor has toured a children’s center in Harlem that he says is caring for 239 migrant children separated from their parents by federal immigration officials.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the tour Wednesday that one of the children at the center is a 9-year-old boy from Honduras who had been sent 2,000 miles to the facility on a bus after being stopped trying to enter the U.S. with his family.

The Democrat says he didn’t know until that morning that such large numbers of children taken from their parents were being brought to New York.

The Cayuga Center has classrooms in a six-story building across the street from an elevated train line.

It has a federal contract to place unaccompanied immigrant children in short-term foster care.


5:20 p.m.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his agency will start reuniting detained immigrant children with their parents — but he’s making no specific commitment on how quickly that can be accomplished.

“We need to get the children out of our care as expeditiously as possible,” Azar said Wednesday on the Washington Post’s Health 202 webcast.

HHS says it is caring for about 11,800 migrant children, but the majority arrived at the U.S. border without parents or another adult. It says about 2,300 were separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

Azar says his agency is in touch with the parents, but some parents whose children were taken away say they have had trouble reaching their kids through a special phone number provided by the government.


5:05 p.m.

A liberal advocacy group says President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border doesn’t go far enough.

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center says the administration still plans to treat families like criminals by holding them in detention facilities.

A statement from the president of the organization, Richard Cohen, says there are other alternatives available. And it says indiscriminate enforcement is “shattering” communities across the country.

Trump signed an order that doesn’t end the “zero-tolerance” policy that criminally prosecutes any adult caught crossing the border illegally. But it does make changes that include keeping families together while they are in custody.

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors extremism and is often critical of Trump policies.


3:25 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the Pentagon will “respond if requested” to house migrants detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

When a reporter noted that federal agencies have assessed four military bases for potential use as temporary housing for detained migrants, including unaccompanied children, Mattis said the Pentagon will “support whatever” the Department of Homeland Security says it needs. In the meantime, he said, this is not a matter for the Pentagon to comment on.


3:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep families together at the southern border, saying at the White House that he doesn’t like the sight of children being separated from their families.

He said, “We are keeping families together.”

But the president added the “zero tolerance” policy will continue.

Vice President Mike Pence added that they are calling upon Congress to change the laws. Trump adds that the word “compassion” comes into it.

Trump has been trying to win over congressional support on immigration amid a crisis along the border involving the separation of immigrant children from their families.


3:05 p.m.

Several Latin American countries are strongly criticizing the U.S. policy of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally.

Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Guatemala and Honduras are voicing their disapproval at a meeting of the Organization of the American States, or OAS, in Washington.

Mexican Ambassador Jorge Lomonaco is calling the policy “cruel” and “inhumane.” He says Mexico will host a meeting Friday with officials from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to discuss the situation.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro is recommending that the regional bloc’s human rights commission visit the Mexico-U.S. border to investigate.

President Donald Trump said he will sign an executive order Wednesday to stop the process of separating children from their families.


1:30 p.m.

First Lady Melania Trump “has been making her opinion known” to her husband that he needs to do all he can to keep families of migrants together.

A White House official says the First Lady has been encouraging President Donald Trump “for some time now,” to “do all he could to help families stay together, whether it was by working with Congress or anything he could do on his own.”

Trump said Wednesday he would sign an executive order to end family separation at the border, reversing his insistence this week that Congress had to act to solve the growing crisis.


1:00 p.m.

American Airlines says it asked the Trump administration not to put migrant children who have been separated from their parents on its flights.

In a statement Wednesday, American said it doesn’t know whether any migrant children have been on its flights and doesn’t want to profit from the current immigration policy of separating families.

American and other airlines have contracts to provide travel services to the U.S. government. American says, however, that the government doesn’t provide information about the passengers or their reason for travel.

In recent days several flight attendants have gone on social media to report seeing groups of children on their flights whom they believed to be children separated from their migrant families.


12:55 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says he’ll believe that President Trump is actually reversing his family-separation policy only after he sees the details.

The former Democratic presidential candidate told the Associated Press on Wednesday that people would have to be “very naive to believe just what (Trump) says.” Sanders said that’s because the Republican president and his lieutenants “lie all the time.”

He noted that Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the policy of separating children from their parents if they’re caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Yet Trump’s Wednesday promise to sign an executive order keeping families together proves he had the power all along to resolve the issue himself.

Sanders said: “I’m glad to hear the news, but again, just because he says something doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be the case. We have to see the details.”


12 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he’ll be signing something “in a little while” to address the spike in the number of migrant children being separated from their families at the border.

Trump said during a White House meeting with members of Congress that, “We want to keep families together.”

The comments come amid news that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has been working on executive action that would end the separation process.

Trump also told reporters that he plans to cancel the annual congressional picnic, saying: “It doesn’t feel right to have a picnic for Congress.”

He added that: “We want to solve this immigration problem.”


11:45 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump’s visit to Britain next month.

May said Wednesday that images of children in cages were “deeply disturbing. This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with.”

Opposition lawmakers rebuked May for not criticizing the Trump administration in stronger terms.

Trump is due to meet May and Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to Britain on July 13.

May said Britain and the United States had a “special, long and enduring relationship,” and she had “a range of issues” to discuss with Trump.

She said the close U.K.-U.S. bond meant “when we disagree with what they are doing, we say so.”


11:15 a.m.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is drafting an executive action for President Donald Trump that would direct DHS to keep families apprehended at the border together during detention.

That’s according to two people familiar with her thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the effort before its official announcement.

It’s unclear whether the president is supportive of the measure.

But Nielsen is on her way to the White House to discuss the issue with the president’s team, according to one of the people.

The person says the secretary believes there is little certainty that Congress will act to fix the separation issue and is trying to find a solution. The order would ask the Department of Defense to help house the detained families.