President Donald Trump told the press pool Wednesday morning that he intends to sign a “preemptive order,” drafted by the Department of Homeland Security, effectively ending border separations, though it’s not likely to provide a long-term fix or satisfy immigration activists.
“I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that. I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure,” the president told gathered reporters.
The order would provide Customs and Border enforcement with a “workaround” to the Flores settlement, a 1997 order that prevents the federal government from holding minor children in detention facilities for more than 20 days, allowing entire families to be detained together, The New York Times reports. It would also likely bring an end to the Administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
Around 2,000 family separations have occurred as a result of the Trump Administration ending the Obama-era “catch-and-release” policy, which allowed illegal immigrants who claimed asylum after being caught jumping the border somewhere other than a non-official checkpoint, to remain in the country on the promise that they would eventually attend an asylum adjudication hearing.
Instead, illegal immigrants claiming asylum at somewhere other than an official border checkpoint are being detained pending a hearing, and children who cannot be detained are being separated from their families and placed in alternative housing.
The issue caused an uproar on social media, but even as Republicans scrambled to author emergency legislation ending the child separation policy, Democrats refused to cooperate, preferring to force the administration to end the policy by Executive fiat — an exercise of power on the part of the Trump Administration they’d regularly object to — rather than sign on to GOP legislation.
A competing, Democratic proposal proved unworkable when legislators discovered it gave anyone arrested by the Department of Justice the ability to avoid long-term detention.
This move will not end Democratic concern over border detentions. The Trump Administration fully expects to be hit with a lawsuit claiming immigrant families cannot be detained together for long periods of time, even if the adults and minor children are related, and that any long-term detention of any asylum seeker is in violation of human rights.
The GOP is working with the White House to create a more comprehensive immigration solution that will help avoid the asylum-seeker question and family detention problem altogether, and would strengthen immigration enforcement. Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican House members met with the President Tuesday night and appeared to reach a compromise with the White House on several key immigration issues, including funding Trump’s signature measure, the border wall.
“He endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration, and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal. He told the members, ‘I’m with you 100%,” a House GOP spokesperson said about Trump Tuesday evening.
That bill is expected to come to the floor of the House later this week, as well.