WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump backed down and abandoned on Wednesday his policy of separating immigrant children from their families on the U.S.-Mexico border, after images of youngsters in cages sparked outrage at home and abroad.
Trump signed an executive order requiring that immigrant families be detained together when they are caught entering the country illegally for as long as their criminal proceedings take. That may violate a court settlement on how long children may be held, setting up a potential legal fight, unless Congress acts on the issue.
The Trump order, an unusual reversal by him, also moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings. The order does not end a 10-week-old “zero tolerance” policy that calls for criminal prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally.
“It’s about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said as he signed the order in a hastily arranged Oval Office gathering minutes before departing for a campaign event.
The videos of kids sitting in cages and an audiotape of wailing children had sparked anger in the United States from groups ranging from clergy to influential business leaders, as well as condemnation from abroad, including by Pope Francis.