US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that would keep families together after they get detained crossing the border illegally.
The order was drafted by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in an effort to end what has become a major crisis for the Trump administration.
“We’re going to have very strong borders but we are going to keep families together,” the president said, adding that he doesn’t like seeing children separated from their families.
However, he also said that the ‘zero tolerance’ policy on illegal immigration will continue.
Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment for illegal immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas, near El Paso
The order marks a dramatic departure for an administration that has been insisting, wrongly, that it has no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of the law and a court decision.
Al Jazeera’s White House correspondant Kimberly Halkett described the action as a “tremendous reversal of policy” but that the broader issue of immigration is still yet to be resolved.
“This is just a stop-gap measure to end the child separations,” she said. “Democrats and Republicans – although they are both blaming each other – have not resolved the broader issue of immigration reform that has been stymying this congress and law makers for about two decades or longer.”
Nielsen, the president and other officials have repeatedly said the only way to end the practice is for Congress to pass new legislation, though both Democrats and some Republicans have said the president could reverse it with a simple phone call.
The news in recent days has been dominated by searing images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump blamed the Democrats for the impasse in Congress.
“It’s the Democrats fault, they won’t give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation,” he tweeted.
“They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security.”
Senator Jeff Merkley said that the exeuctive action does not necessarily reflect a positive solution.
“Details yet to come, but @realDonaldTrump’s ‘solution’ to family separation sounds like handcuffs for all,” he said in a post on Twitter.
“Locking up children and families in detention centers is unacceptable and un-American.”
Nicole AustinHillery, the US executive director at Human Rights Watch, agreed.
“[Republicans] in the Senate are now considering detaining families as a unit in response to the national outcry from tearing families apart,” she said.
“This is not a solution just a change in how the damage is done.”
Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Source – Al JAZEERA