President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon ending the separation of parents from children who are detained for crossing the border illegally.
“Thank you very much. We're signing an executive order. I consider it to be a very important executive order. It's about keeping families together while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border, and border security will be equal if not greater than previously,” Trump said. "We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together. I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated."
The order does not strip zero tolerance enforcement, meaning individuals who enter the country illegally or claim asylum outside of official ports of entry will still be charged and prosecuted. Family units will be held together in detention facilities.
"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," the order, titled Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation, states.
"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. It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law," it continues.
The order still requires illegal alien adults to prove they have a parental relationship with children they are traveling with. In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has seen an exponential increase in fake "family units" and human traffickers posing as parents.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley warned about this back in 2016.
A recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report confirmed that human smuggling rings are exploiting children in order to prevent the detention of the undocumented immigrants they’re smuggling into the United States. They are pairing children with unrelated adults, knowing adults who enter the United States with children won’t be detained. At least one Honduran interviewed by DHS officials reported that children are kidnapped or adopted then smuggled with their unrelated adult “family member” to the United States. This smuggling practice has bolstered an underground market for counterfeit birth certificates according to the report, which was prepared by the DHS Human Smuggling Cell. Once in the U.S., these children are vulnerable to labor or sex trafficking.
The Department of Defense, in addition to all other necessary government agencies, will allocate resources to family unit and unaccompanied minor care, which includes housing.
"The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law," the report states. "Heads of executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent consistent with law, make available to the Secretary, for the housing and care of alien families pending court proceedings for improper entry, any facilities that are appropriate for such purposes."