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Watched by Vice President Pence, President Trump on Wednesday shows an executive order on immigration aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images


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Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Watched by Vice President Pence, President Trump on Wednesday shows an executive order on immigration aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday ending his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents who were detained as they attempted to enter the U.S. illegally.

The action came after a firestorm of protest from administration opponents and allies, reacting to pictures and sounds of young children traumatized by their separation from their parents at the hands of U.S. authorities.

“So we’re going to have strong — very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together. I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” said Trump.


He is, in effect, ordering family separation to be replaced with the detention of whole families together, even after previously arguing that “you can’t do it by executive order.”

What does the executive order say?


The president says his administration is trying to balance rigorous enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and pursue its policy of maintaining family unity. He says his administration was put “in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law” because of “Congress’s failure to act” and “court orders.”

What court orders is he talking about?

The administration has consistently said it was forced to separate families because of the conclusion of a court case known as “the Flores Settlement.” That settlement, reached in 1997, required the government to limit the time it keeps unaccompanied minors in detention and to keep them in the least restrictive setting possible. The settlement was later modified to say that children should not be held longer than 20 days.

Trump’s executive order directs the attorney general to promptly file a request with U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in the Central District of California to modify the Flores Settlement and allow detained migrant families to be held together “throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings … or other immigration proceedings.”

What else did Trump order?

The president directed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to maintain custody of detained families during criminal proceedings and as their asylum claims are adjudicated. Also, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the heads of other agencies are ordered to find or construct facilities to house the detained families. Finally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is directed to prioritize the adjudication of cases involving detained families.

What does the executive order mean for House Republican legislation?


After visiting Capitol Hill on Tuesday night to rally a broad immigration bill, Trump said Wednesday that he still hopes that Congress will act.

“We will be going through Congress. We’re working on a much more comprehensive bill,” Trump said before signing the order. But as The Washington Post reports, few people are predicting that either House measure — either a conservative version or a more moderate one — will pass.

So what happens to the children who have been separated from their parents?

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