Parents and children who together try to enter the United States illegally will no longer be separated at Mexican border.
In recent days, we’ve heard the cries of preschoolers, howling for their moms and dads after being separated at the US-Mexico border. We’ve seen images of boys on metal benches in chain-link enclosures at US government-run facilities. And we’ve listened to politicians demand answers, shift blame and fail to agree on how to change the laws that bred this chaos.
It all began with a new Trump administration policy, enacted in mid-April, to refer every person caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution, including those who arrive with children. The change reflected a more aggressive stance than previous administrations ever took and meant children would be taken away – and put in federal shelters or foster care around the country – as their parents’ criminal cases progressed.
Here’s how the policy’s remarkable consequences continued unfolding this week:
Monday: ‘We will not apologize’
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen started the week by defending the administration’s highly scrutinized policy and putting the onus on Congress to change the laws that the administration has complained restrict how it detains and processes undocumented immigrants and especially asylum seekers.
“We will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does, for doing the job that the American people expect us to do,” she said Monday. “Illegal actions have and must have consequences: no more free passes, no more get out-of-jail-free cards.”
Nielsen’s hastily planned news conference at the White House that same day drew swift criticism, including that she offered only facts and figures in response to a deeply emotional issue.
Also on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the separation policy, saying, “We’re doing the right thing. We’re taking care of these children.” Sessions also dismissed comparisons of federal child-detention facilities to Nazi concentration camps, arguing that Nazis “were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.”
The White House, facing mounting outcry and making contradictory statements, entered damage control mode.
Tuesday: Immigrants poised to ‘infest our Country’
Trump dug in, saying Tuesday in a series of tweets that the separation policy was vital to keeping Americans safe.
He also falsely blamed Democrats, maintaining he couldn’t do anything about his administration’s policy shift, and amplified his already-heated immigration rhetoric.
“Democrats are the problem,” he wrote Tuesday. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”
That same day, congressional Republicans, keen to secure an end to the separation policy as they worked on separate immigration legislation, got vague marching orders from Trump during a meeting on Capitol Hill.
Wednesday: ‘We’re signing an executive order’
Trump abruptly reversed his debunked argument that he lacked authority to stop family separations and signed an executive order to keep parents and kids together in detention.
“We’re signing an executive order. I consider it to be a very important executive order. It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said.
The President maintained he wasn’t backing down.
“The border is just as tough. But we do want to keep families together,” he said.