WASHINGTON – US President Donald trump signed on Wednesday an executive order to end the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents after being detained at the US-Mexico border, a policy that has been widely criticized both within and outside the United States.
The executive order will allow children to stay with their parents in immigration detention centers for an extended period of time.
“We’re keeping families together and 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,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” the president said, adding that the executive order would create “a lot of happy people.”
According to official figures, at least 2,342 children have been separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border from May 5-June 9 as part of the administration’s policy of attempting to prosecute every adult entering the country illegally.
With the executive order, parents who are detained by immigration authorities will be taken to detention centers with their children, a situation that will most likely lead to lawsuits being filed against the administration as it could violate a 1997 agreement between the US government and human rights groups.
The 1997 agreement, knows as the Flores Settlement, states that minors detained by immigration authorities should be held in the least restrictive setting possible and be released within 20 days.
The administration of President Barack Obama failed to abide by Flores in 2014 and 2015, when a surge of Central American child migrants, many of them unaccompanied, led the government to hold immigrant children and families in several detention centers.
Trump, who had repeatedly stated that the only way to stop family separation was through legislation, said that he was continuing to work with lawmakers to pass an immigration bill, which would include funding for a border wall.