What's happening at the US border
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy issued a scathing statement that warns Americans to "not be fooled" by President Trump's executive order, which would keep families together at the border.
"After weeks of false and conflicting justifications for requiring that children be torn from their parents at the border, the President backed down," he said.
"But we must not be fooled. We need to ensure that the 2,500 children already separated are promptly reunited with their families."
Read his full statement:
Today the American people, through their forceful and justified outrage, proved that people, joining together, can drive positive change even during the Trump administration. After weeks of false and conflicting justifications for requiring that children be torn from their parents at the border, the President backed down. But we must not be fooled. We need to ensure that the 2,500 children already separated are promptly reunited with their families. We must be clear that mass incarceration of families is not the answer — alternatives exist that have proven to be effective, less costly, and more humane. And the Attorney General needs to restore discretion to our federal prosecutors along the border. With limited resources, it makes absolutely no sense to delay civil immigration proceedings in order to criminally prosecute migrants with no criminal records, who pose no threat, and who are only seeking refuge from unimaginable violence and terror in their home countries. The President may cynically assert that protecting our borders requires abhorrent treatment of immigrant children and their parents. But that is as wrong as it is un-American. The President owns this.
A nine-month-old is one of 239 children at a shelter in Harlem as a result of the Trump administration’s policy that has lead to family separations, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday afternoon.
De Blasio, who toured the Cayuga Centers shelter before addressing the media, said more than 350 children had already been through the facility and questioned how this many children could be at just one facility without the city government being aware.
This is a day facility where children are in classes, he noted. The children are in individual foster homes.
Some of the children have bed bugs, lice, chicken pox and other physical and contagious diseases, he said. Some children are too young to communicate and are need of significant mental health services, he added.
President Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, just tweeted about her father's executive order to keep families together at the border.
According to several lawmakers, Trump told them that Ivanka had encouraged him to stop family separations. She also called House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine after a meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday night.
Here's Ivanka's tweet:
President Trump said the first lady and his eldest daughter feel "very strongly" about the issue of border separations.
"Ivanka feels very strongly. My wife feels very strongly about it. I feel strongly about it," Trump said. "I think anybody with a heart would feel strongly about it. We don't like to see families separated."
Both Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump reportedly urged Trump to take action to end family separations
Several members of Congress said Trump the first daughter encouraged him to stop border separations and even called lawmakers about the issue. And Melania Trump had worked for several days behind the scenes, encouraging the President to keep families together, a White House official tells CNN.
Here's Trump's comments from moments ago:
President Trump said he isn't backing down by signing an executive order to end the separation of families at the border, despite days of of mounting political pressure as he and his aides insisted their hands were tied.
"The border is just as tough. But we do want to keep families together," Trump said in the Oval Office.
Trump suggested there may be some litigation related to the order, and referenced potential immigration legislation, saying, "We may go through Congress."
Still, he maintained that "a lot of good things are happening. But we have to have strong borders and ultimately we want to see it done right. But what we have done today is keeping families together."
As to what may have driven him to sign this executive order to end family separations after days of calling on Congress to act, President Trump said: "I didn’t like the sight or feeling of families being separated."
"So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem at the same we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance," he said.
But Trump stood firm on his "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.
"We have zero tolerance for people that enter our countries illegally," Trump said.
Trump said the order would lead to "a lot of happy people."
President Trump has signed an executive order “about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border."
"We are keeping families together," Trump said from the Oval Office while flanked by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence.
"This will solve that problem. At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people who enter our country illegally," he said.
What just happened: President Donald Trump officially reversed his debunked argument that he had no authority to stop separations of undocumented immigrant families at the border.
Trump's climbdown came after he faced intense pressure from across the political spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders to halt the separations, which produced days of heart-rending news coverage of crying children some of whom were kept in cage-like detention centers.
Watch the signing and remarks:
American Airlines and United Airlines both told the federal government to stop using their planes to transport children who have been separated from their families at the US-Mexico border, after a Facebook post went viral claiming they were doing just that.
American said it has no way of knowing for sure whether its aircraft has been used to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families, and United said research failed to reveal any evidence separated children were being flown on their planes.
Still, stories of distressed migrant children being transported on airplanes were spreading, and the airlines chose to respond.
How the government is responding: The Department of Homeland Security criticized the airlines' requests to not partner with the agency, saying the partnership was a way to "swiftly reunite unaccompanied illegal immigrant children with their families." Tyler Houlton, press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, also tweeted, “Despite being provided facts on this issue, these airlines clearly do not understand our immigration laws and the long-standing devastating loopholes that have caused the crisis at our southern border.”
How all of this started
The news coverage of the border crisis and family separations has included stories of wailing cries from children asking for their parents, harsh living conditions and understaffed facilities, sparking waves of outrage against the policy.
But then a Facebook post began circulating last week that claims to be the story of a flight attendant on an unnamed airline who watched 16 migrant children dressed in Walmart sweats board a flight from Arizona to Miami just after midnight.
CNN has not confirmed the veracity of the Facebook claim.
A source familiar with the upcoming executive order on family separations says it will not end the "zero-tolerance" policy that is prompting the border separations.
It will be more narrowly focused on ending the family separations by allowing families to be detained together.
This source noted that it's not yet clear how the families that are currently separated will be reunited.