Parents across America—and around the world—heard the crying of immigrant children separated from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico and said, "No. This cannot happen."
The calls for families to be reunited made a difference, and today President Donald Trump signed an executive order about "keeping families together."
Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump said "We're gonna have a lot of happy people," and that he "didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated." Trump said the zero-tolerance policy which sees anyone entering the U.S. at illegal border crossings—including those seeking asylum—prosecuted, will continue. His executive order does not change that, but does state that detained individuals who enter the U.S. with a child or children should be detained with those children when possible.
Trump's executive order reads, in part:
"It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws. Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time. When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise. It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."
Many immigration advocates say today's announcement does not go far enough, and are raising questions about how and when the detained children will be reunited with their parents. In the meantime, it is clear that these families still need help, and continued support for organizations like the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and initiatives like the Baby2Baby registry for immigrant children is important.
While the executive order changes things officially, it's not an instant fix, and in the coming days more support for the families will be needed. Detained parents will need legal support, help with bonds, and in some cases, help tracking down their children, as the Associated Press reports it can take weeks for parents to find out where their child is being held.