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Just days after saying that his hands were tied and it was the Congress that had to act in the separations of children of their immigrant parents, President Donald Trump backed down.
Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to stop the controversial measure in the face of increasing national and international pressure.
“I consider this executive order very important, it’s about keeping families together while making sure we have a strong border ,” the president said from the White House.
“I did not like the image of seeing families being separated,” he added.
Of course, then reiterated that it will continue to maintain “zero tolerance” towards those who enter the country illegally, which implies prosecuting immigrants through criminal proceedings.
The order, which at the moment of being signed was not clear when it would enter into force, reverses the questioned policy applied since April on the border.
Only since May, about 2. 3 00 minors have been separated from their parents when crossing the border, according to US immigration authorities.
The audios and images of dozens of children cryingin closed in what seem like cages broadcast by the media in recent days have generated strong criticism of the government against this measure, both opponents of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party itself, as well as representatives of social, economic and religious.
The new order states that immigrants will continue to be detained while crossing the border and prosecuted as alleged perpetrators of a crime , but families will remain together , except in cases where there is concern for the welfare of the children.
Trump’s rectification creates another problem for the government: what to do with detained families, possibly for a long period of time, and how to reunite those who have already been separated.
“Replace one crisis with another, children should not be in jail, even if it is with their parents, under any circumstances,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the US Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. (ACLU, in English).
“If the president believes that putting children in jail with their parents is what the people were asking of him, he is terribly wrong,” he added.
The fact is that parents detained by border patrol agents are held in federal prisons while their children remain in the custody of the Customs and Border Protection Body (CBP) in facilities managed by the Department of Health’s Refugee Office.
Trump signed the document in the company of the vice president, Mike Pence, and the secretary of National Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.
He said his wife, Melania, and his daughter Ivanka, who according to some reports had been pressuring him to abandon that policy, were strong supporters of ending the separation of migrant families.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a vote on Thursday on “legislation to keep families together.”
Ryan did not offer details about the bill but said it would serve to solve “in a very elegant way” the situation of the so-called d reamers , young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children.
On Wednesday, the American Airlines, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines companies announced that they do not want their planes put at the service of the government used to transport immigrant children.
“We do not want to be part of this,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz.
“I prefer to be strong”
A few hours before signing the executive order, the president asked Congress to pass a law ending the separation of families, but also expressed his desire that any legal change means a tightening of immigration regulations.
“If you are very, very weak, at a pathetic level, the country will be invaded by millions of people, and if you are strong, then you do not have a heart, it is a difficult dilemma, maybe I prefer to be strong.”
The president has blamed the measure of separating families from the Democratic Party, which he accuses of having passed an immigration law that causes these separations.
However, there is no federal law that establishes the obligation to apply this type of measure.
The notable increase in separations began last April , after the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced the application of the policy of “zero tolerance” with illegal immigration that includes measures such as the criminal prosecution of all adults. they enter the country without documentation.
As minors are not charged, then they can not be sent to jail together with their parents, which results in family separation.
Trump takes a step back
Analysis of Anthony Zurcher, correspondent of the BBC in Washington
For several days government officials have insisted that they were simply applying the law as written and that the policy of “zero tolerance” for the entry of people without immigration permits across the border meant that they “have to separate children “, in the words of the president.
Critics pointed out, on the other hand, that Trump unilaterally created the situation that produced the harrowing stories of children separated from their parents and that he could solve it on his own.
By signing the executive order, the president is recognizing that they were right .
Now the fight is likely to be moved to court, with lawsuits against the government’s decision to keep detained families together while deciding their immigration status.
That is a more politically propitious terrain for Republicans, who already have to face tough midterm elections in November.