President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to end family separations at the border — an immigration policy that was enacted by the Trump administration earlier this year. More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents since the policy went into effect in April.
“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Trump told the press while signing the executive order, according to The New York Times. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
However, critics were quick to remind everyone that he is responsible for separating families.
“It is outrageous that the president is pushing the criminal detention of innocent children as a solution to his own evil act,” Kevin Appleby, a senior director at the Center for Migration Studies, told The New York Times. “The best solution would be releasing families to sponsors or placing them in community-based alternatives to detention programs, which are less expensive and much more humane.”
Families who cross the border illegally will not be separated. Children will now be detained indefinitely in detention facilities — described by many as prisons — with their parents while their cases go to court. This is causing its own legal challenge because of a court decision in Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement, or the Flores Settlement, in 1997.
The Flores Settlement states that children cannot be detained for more than 20 days. They are also to be held in the least restrictive detention possible. According to Vox, the Trump administration is aware of the court decision and have been working to overturn it so children can be held indefinitely.
President Trump has tried distancing himself from his immigration policy by blaming Democrats and previous presidents for the separation. However, the key difference is that the Trump administration turned crossing the border illegally from a civil matter to a criminal matter. This difference is what forced immigration officers to separate all families crossing the border during the last six weeks.
The executive order does not address reuniting children who were previously separated from their parents. Immigration officials have admitted that there is no process in place to reunite the families that have been separated.
“I think the intention was to change things (but) I think there is a lot of confusion. Frankly, I think the way the order is drafted is not executable,” John Sandweg, a former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told CNN. “I was really shocked to see they are not going to unite the kids. I thought the whole point of this was to reunite the kids.”