01:46 - Source: CNN
Sen. Cardin: This scars the child for life
Washington CNN  — 

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said President Donald Trump should end the immigrant family separation crisis at the border with a stroke of his pen and retract his executive order that created “massive confusion.”

Cardin said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” that Trump “created this … cruel policy by calling a parent who is trying to protect the life of his child a ‘criminal.’ “

“This policy has to end now, and the President of the United States can end it now,” he said. “It doesn’t have to wait for congressional action. We’re calling upon the President to end this policy and let children be able to stay with their parents.”

He stressed a serious need for “transparency” from Trump, who he asserted “changes the rules all the time.”

“We need to know where children are being held, what is happening there at the border, what the policy of the country is – this is the United States,” said Cardin. “Once again, I underscore that if the President created this crisis, he can end it with a stroke of the pen.”

E-mails from Customs and Border Protection obtained Thursday by CNN reveal that, despite the Trump administration’s stated maintenance of the zero-tolerance policy, field officers have suspended the prosecution of any parents crossing the border illegally.

For Cardin, this discrepancy in stated policy and effected action is part of the broader “massive confusion right now as to what the (zero-tolerance) policy is, what the facts are on the ground.”

Much of the order’s effectiveness depends on Department of Justice action Trump directed on Wednesday.

The Flores settlement – a consent decree stemming from Flores v. Reno, agreed to in 1997 during the Clinton administration – prohibits the government from holding children in detention centers for more than 20 days. It effectively obligates the government to place detained children in the “least restrictive” environment.

The Trump administration has often cited the Flores settlement as its reason for separating children from parents facing prosecution.

The executive order Trump signed Wednesday mandates that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “file a request … to modify the Flores settlement, in a manner that would permit the Secretary … to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.”

That request was filed the next day. Cardin is “sure” that the courts will allow children “to stay with their parents longer … as long as it’s in a nonrestrictive setting.”

Trump has also long criticized Democrats for using “phony stories” to support their stance on immigration. In a May 29 tweet, he pointed out Democrats’ “mistaken” tweets of photos of Obama-era detention facilities from 2014. New photos were released by Customs and Border Protection earlier this month revealing current detainment conditions.

Cardin responded to Trump’s criticisms by saying family separations are “not a matter of politics.”

“The President is using this to deter people from coming to our border – using children as pawns,” he said. “There should be no place for this in America.”