President Donald Trump reversed his stance on Wednesday and ordered an end to the practice of separating migrant children from their families at the border, a widely-scorned feature of his “zero tolerance” policy.
But while ending the separations, his executive order indicates conditions for detained illegal immigrants could toughen in other respects. Here are the key points:
– Any adult caught crossing the border illegally, even if to request asylum, will be arrested and charged with criminal illegal entry. This is unchanged from the policy announced on May 7.
– The children of migrant family groups crossing the border illegally will no longer be separated from them. The family units will now be detained together by the Department of Homeland Security, instead of the Justice and Housing and Human Services departments as in the past.
– The family units will be held by DHS over the period required for their court trial on illegal entry charges, and for reviews of their immigration requests. As those together can take months or even years, the Trump administration will seek to change the 1997 Flores Settlement, which forbids the government from holding children in detention, even with their families, for more than 20 days.
– However, Trump’s order also says that, “to the extent practicable”, cases involving families will be prioritized.
– The Department of Defense was ordered to allow any available facilities to be used for housing illegal immigrants, and, if necessary, to build new facilities for them.