Trump Order On Migrant Children

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Trump Signs Order To Keep Families Together At Border

June 20, 2018 - 11:21 am
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon signed an executive order to keep migrant children from being separated from their families at the border.

But he said the "zero-tolerance" prosecution policy on immigration will continue.

In signing the order, Trump said the family separations go back many years prior to his time in office.

READ THE EXECUTIVE ORDER

“If you look at some of these horrible scenes from a few years ago – to me, they were horrible scenes – they were just terrible, and they were during the Obama administration,” Trump said. “Other administrations have had the same thing. We’re keeping the family together.”

Trump said he does not want people coming into the country illegally, but he does not like the sight of families being separated.

As CBS News White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace Wednesday afternoon, Trump said his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, both felt very strongly about the issue.

“Anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it,” he said.

The order was a dramatic turnaround for Trump, who has been insisting, wrongly, that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision.

“Before all this, immigrant advocates had said they worried that this would result in children being jailed alongside their parents. So we’ll see how this plays out,” Portnoy said. “The big question now is what does it mean to the 2,300 children who have been separated from their 2,200 adult family members and dispersed all over the country – including, apparently, in New York City.”

The news in recent days has been dominated by searing images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents — images that have sparked fury, question of morality and concern from Republicans about a negative impact on their races in November's midterm elections.

Until Wednesday, the president, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials had repeatedly argued the only way to end the practice was for Congress to pass new legislation, while Democrats said Trump could do it with his signature alone. That's what he did on Wednesday.

“It seems as though the president is taking it upon himself to do what he had said that only Congress could do, so this is very interesting, and it’s clearly the result of the pressure that the president has faced in the last several days as a result of not just the news coverage, but also the response from Capitol Hill,” Portnoy said.

He noted that Republicans in the Senate said they were unified to act to prevent the family separations, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) also said families should not be separated.

Trump's order is likely to create a fresh set of problems involving length of detention of families, and may spark a fresh court fight. The language also leaves room to separate children from parents if it's best for the child's welfare.

Assessments for possible detainee use have been done at three bases in Texas: Dyess Air Force Base, Goodfellow Air Force Base and Fort Bliss. An assessment is expected Thursday at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.

Also playing a role in the president's turnaround: First lady Melania Trump. One White House official said Mrs. Trump had been making her opinion known to the president for some time that she felt he needed to do all he could to help families stay together, whether by working with Congress or acting on his own.

Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen traveled to Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon to brief lawmakers. And lawmakers on the fence over pending immigration legislation headed to the White House to meet with Trump.

Two people close to Nielsen said she was the driving force behind the turnabout that led to the new order keeping families together. Those people were not authorized to speak publicly and commented only on condition of anonymity.

One of them said Nielsen, who had become the face of the administration's policy, had little faith that Congress would act to fix the separation issue and felt compelled to act. She was heckled at a restaurant Tuesday evening and has faced protesters at her home.

Trump had tweeted early Wednesday, before issuing his order, "It's the Democrats fault, they won't give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation. They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!"

The "zero tolerance" policy put into place last month moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Also Wednesday, American Airlines and United Airlines – among others – said they did not want to fly any children separated from their parents.

“American has claimed it does not know if it has (flown migrant children),” said CBS News Transportation Consultant Mark Rosenker. “There have been stories on the internet indicating that they have, and in fact that that’s why they put out a statement today indicating that they do not wish to be part of any type of program that would be separating families. They said their business is bringing families together, not separating them. So United followed suit, and so did Frontier Airlines.”

Trump also earlier told reporters that he plans to cancel the annual congressional picnic scheduled for Thursday, saying: "It doesn't feel right to have a picnic for Congress.''

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)