WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, addressing what his administration has characterized as an unwanted side effect of his zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration, signed an executive order on Wednesday to keep families who illegally cross the US southern border together as they await immigration proceedings.
“It’s about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump told reporters as he signed the measure.
Earlier, Trump said Wednesday that he is preparing to sign an executive order to halt the separation of migrant children from their parents on the US border, as global criticism of the practice mounted.
The announcement came after his administration was besieged from all sides over the policy, launched in early May, to arrest anyone crossing the border illegally.
That crackdown sent the adults for prosecution as criminals — and removed their children from their care, sending them to tent camps and other facilities where they were unable to contact their loved ones.
As images and accounts of sobbing children wrested from their parents circulated, Trump’s own Republican Party began to rebel, prompting him to do an about-face after days of saying it was up to Congress to act, and pledge executive action.
“We want security for the country,” Trump said at a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House. “And we will have that at the same time we have compassion, we want to keep families together.”
“We are signing an executive order in a little while” to end the practice, Trump said.
The president however made clear he was not easing up on his determination to shut down the border to illegal immigration, calling it a source of rampant crime and drugs.
“We still have to maintain toughness, or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don’t stand for and we don’t want,” he said.
– ‘Deeply disturbing’ images –
As countries marked World Refugee Day Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Council of Europe and Pope Francis all took issue with Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.
May said images of migrant children kept in cage-like units were “deeply disturbing,” and the Council of Europe, a global human rights watchdog, said Trump had abdicated any claim to moral leadership in the world.
“A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity,” the pope said on Twitter.