Trump ends policy of separating migrant families caught crossing border

Mural of President Trump at the Casa Padre shelter for unaccompanied minors in Brownsville, Texas
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Young boys who were forcibly taken away from their parents are waking up this morning at an old Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, that’s been converted into a shelter called “Casa Padre.” Painted on the wall is a mural of President Trump and a quote from “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 book. “Sometimes by losing a battle,” it reads, “you find a new way to win the war.”

Make no mistake: The executive order Trump signed Wednesday to end his own policy of separating families who are caught crossing the border illegally was a tactical retreat. It was not a surrender. The president’s war on immigration — both illegal and legal — rages on.

— Trump made clear during a campaign-style rally last night in Minnesota that he hopes the order will let him shift the immigration debate back toward terrain he’s more confident he can win on. Speaking to 9,000 supporters at a hockey arena in Duluth, the president leaned into the us-against-them language that propelled his 2016 bid.

“I signed an executive order (so) we’re going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been,” Trump said. “Democrats don’t care about the impact of uncontrolled migration on your communities, your schools, your hospitals, your jobs or your safety. Democrats put illegal immigrants before American citizens. What the hell is going on?

“The media never talks about the American victims of illegal immigration,” he added. “What’s happened to their children? What’s happened to their husbands? What’s happened to their wives? The media doesn’t talk about American families permanently separated from their loved ones.”

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As the crowd chanted “build that wall,” Trump attacked the caliber of Mexican immigrants to the United States: “They’re not sending their finest,” he said. “And we’re sending them the hell back!”

— To wit, the Border Patrol says Trump’s “zero tolerance” approach will continue, which means any adult caught crossing the border will be prosecuted with a misdemeanor and families will now be held together in federal custody pending the trial. There’s a great deal of uncertainty among experts about whether this can pass legal muster, but immigrant advocates worry that Trump is laying the groundwork for indefinite detention.

“And senior administration officials said the order did not stipulate that the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents would be immediately reunited with them … Top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees their supervision, were unable to say when the families would be reunited,” David Nakamura, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey report.

“One senior DHS official acknowledged that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has almost no ability to add detention capacity for families because its jails are already full. … The DHS official said ICE is not planning to put children in adult detention centers as prohibited under the 1997 court settlement in Flores v. Reno, which stipulated immigrant children must be placed in the least restricted environment possible while awaiting immigration court proceedings.”

Trump reiterated that Congress must come up with a solution. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen even told lawmakers during a private briefing that the family separations could resume if they fail to act.


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