The much criticised policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents will come to an end

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on June 21, 2018

On 20 June 2018 Trump signed an executive order to end the policy of separating children.

“It’s about keeping families together,” he said at the signing ceremony.

“I did not like the sight or the feeling of families being separated. This will solve that problem.”

The order states that the Trump administration will continue to “rigorously” enforce immigration law and be “very strong” at border protection.

“Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time,” the order states.

“It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

Trump said that unnamed congressman and senators were hard at work on new legislation for a revised border protection policy. It is unclear when the new system will come into place or how exactly it will work. While the separations will no longer occur, the Trump administration is determined to stick to its “zero tolerance” policy.

Trump added that he was cancelling a Congressional picnic scheduled for 21 June 2018. “I said: ‘You know, it doesn’t feel right to have a picnic for Congress when we’re working on something so important’.”

Outrage over the family separation policy

The policy of separating undocumented migrant children had been widely criticised as inhumane.

Distressing footage from a US Customs and Border Protection detention centre in Texas recently surfaced in the media, showing young children kept in cages and crying out for their parents.

Oprah Winfrey tweeted: “Babies torn from their parents…Can’t stand it!” Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was another to speak out, tweeting that the pictures of distraught children in detention made him “sick to my stomach and heartbroken”.

A recent poll showed 66% of Americans opposed the policy and only 27% supported it.

In that poll, the only demographic to come out in favour of the policy were Republican voters. Influential figures within the party had begun to voice their opposition to the policy however, and during an interview on CNN, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham challenged Trump.

“If you don’t like families being separated, you can go tell DHS (Department of Homeland Security): stop doing it,” he said.

Arizona Senator John McCain, a former Republican Presidential nominee, said in a tweet the policy was “an affront to the decency of the American people and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded”.

Former First Lady Laura Bush condemned the policy as “cruel” and “immoral” and said the shocking footage of the detained children was reminiscent of footage of prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Even Melania Trump made a rare comment on policy issues, saying via her spokeswoman that “she hates to see children separated from their families”.

As recently as earlier this week, Trump was defiantly sticking to his guns and insisting that the separations would continue. He also wrongly claimed the Democrats had put the policy in place.

The old system: thousands of children separated from their parents

Under the now defunct system, undocumented migrant families were separated into two separate processing streams as part of a “zero-tolerance” policy which detained the parents in prison and forced them to face criminal charges.

The children were then moved into “temporary shelter” facilities. While the parents often entered a guilty plea and took the “expedited removal” option in the hope they would be quickly reunited with their children, this was often not the case.

The children could not take the “expedited removal” route and their cases often took longer to resolve.

Ultimately, many parents were deported without their children and faced with the daunting task of locating them from the country they had previously fled.

US immigration officials say more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents since 5 May 2018.