Washington, DC – US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (June 20) relented under pressure on the burning issue of separating migrant children from their parents as he signed an executive order titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” ending the practice but kept in place key components of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting illegal border crossings along the US-Mexico border.
Signing the order in the presence of Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump said, “It’s about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border.”
Asked to comment by the president, VP Pence added, “By taking this action, the President will make it possible for us to continue to engage in enforcing the law against individuals who violate our law, come into our country illegally. But now we’ll be able, in the prosecution in the immediate days forward, to keep families together as that goes forward.”
In her remarks Secretary Nielsen asked the lawmakers to act, saying: “We look forward and expect the House to act this week. We ask them to do their job. The laws need to be changed. This is a problem that President after President has dealt with for decades. This one is willing to stand up and fix it. We ask Congress to do their part.”
While the administration will continue prosecuting crimes of “improper entry”, the administration will “maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources,” according to the order’s text.
“The Secretary shall not, however, detain an alien family together when there is a concern that detention of an alien child with the child’s alien parent would pose a risk to the child’s welfare,” the order cautioned.
As the Executive Order contradicts an earlier court judgement, the president asked the Attorney General to, “promptly file a request with the US District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions, CV 85-4544 (“Flores settlement”), in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.”
Cabinet Room Meeting
Earlier at a Cabinet Room meeting in the White House with Vice President Mike Pence, administration officials and lawmakers, President Trump answered some shouted questions about the border separations. Trump answered, “We’re looking to keep families together. Very important. We’re going to be signing an executive order. We are also going to count on Congress, obviously, but we are signing an executive order in a little while. We’re going to keep families together but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don’t stand for and that we don’t want.”
President Trump continued, “So I’m going to be signing an executive order in a little while before I go to Minnesota but, at the same time, I think you have to understand, we’re keeping families together but we have to keep our borders strong. We will be overrun with crime and with people that should not be in our country.”
Wearing dark suit, white shirt and red tie, the president sat with Senator Jim Inhofe to his right and Congressman Mac Thornberry to his left, while the vice-president sat directly opposite him.
Earlier again blaming the Democrats as the problem factor, President Trump told the select audience: “We’re having a lot of problems with Democrats that don’t want to vote for anything. They don’t care about lack of security. They really would like to have open borders where anybody in the world can just flow in, including from the Middle East, from anybody anywhere they can just flow into our country. Tremendous problems with that, tremendous crime caused by that. We’re just not going to do it.”
President Trump has been under intense pressure, including from his own party members, to end the separation practice that stems from the administration’s policy to prosecute every adult nabbed trying to cross the US-Mexico border illegally.
No Congressional Picnic
In addition, President announced in his remarks the cancelation of a picnic scheduled for June 21, saying “I do want to say that because we’re all so busy and I just mentioned to the Congressman and the Senators in the room that we are going to cancel and postpone tomorrow’s congressional picnic. We have a congressional picnic tomorrow and I was just walking over to the Oval Office and I said, you know, it doesn’t feel right to have a picnic for Congress when we’re working on doing something very important. We have many things that are important – we’re talking about trade, we’re talking about many, many things but it didn’t feel exactly right to me.”
“So we will be officially postponing the congressional picnic for tomorrow. We’ll make it another time when things are going extremely well – and they are going for the country extremely well. We have record setting numbers in every way economically but we want to solve this immigration problem which is going on for 40 years, more. It’s been going to go on forever and we want to see if we can solve it so we are canceling or postponing the congressional picnic tomorrow.,” added the president.
List of Attendees
The White House provided the following list of the attendees at today’s meeting. In addition, the journalists also spotted Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the table, as well as Marc Short and Sarah Sanders standing in the room.
Senators: Lamar Alexander, John Cornyn, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, John Hoeven, Jim Inhofe, Ron Johnson, David Perdue, Dan Sullivan, Roger Wicker and Mike Crapo
Representatives: Liz Cheney, Mike Gallagher, Adam Kinzinger, Mac Thornberry and Mike Turner