Amid public condemnation, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end the practice of family separation at the border.
Since 1975, the United States has assisted in the resettlement of more than 3 million refugees. Illegal immigration was a signature issue of U.S. President Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and has continued to play a big role in his policies. He has repeatedly blamed immigrants for multiple problems within America. During his campaign he had stated that many of the immigrants who come in from Mexico were “rapists” -a comment he was widely criticized for. He also proposed to build a big wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration. He said that Mexico would pay for this structure – a claim that has been denied by the Mexican government.
President Trump has expressed support for a variety of "limits on legal immigration and guest-worker visas” including a "pause" on granting green cards, which Trump says will "allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages.” Trump's proposals regarding H-1B visas frequently changed throughout his presidential campaign, but as of late July 2016, he appeared to oppose the H-1B visa program. He has also questioned official estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States (between 11 and 12 million), insisting the number is much higher (between 30 and 34 million).
After being sworn in, the US President initiated a travel ban, on entrants from a number of Muslim-majority countries. Colloquially called the “Muslim ban”, this order was met with widespread protests. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. The Trump administration rescinded this policy in 2017.
On May 7th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for immigration, noting that the US would begin prosecuting every person crossing the border illegally, and that parents who brought their children with them could be separated.
In April and May 2018, an average of 45 children were taken from their parents per day. If the policy had continued, an estimated 30,000 children could have been detained by August 2018. According to estimates, at least 2,300 children were separated from their parents. Some experts note that the number could be even higher.
The policy initiating family separation ignited a spate of mass protests across the United States and incurred criticism from world leaders. Even the Pope spoke against the separation of families. In the beginning, US President Donald Trump tried to deflect the controversy by noting that this was a law initiated by the Democrats. However, it was later proven that it was not a law but a policy by the Trump administration.
Amid extraordinary public condemnation, President Trump signed an executive order to “keep families together” at the Southern Border. “I consider it to be a very important executive order,” Trump said during the signing ceremony. “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.” He added: “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
Despite backtracking on familial separation policy, the new immigration order remains as stringent as ever. Under the new executive order:
- Immigrant families will be detained together while their legal cases are considered
- Immigration cases will be expedited when it comes to family units.
- Requesting the modification of a court ruling that dictates how long immigrant children can be detained
The order notes, "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." Additionally, even though the executive order is prospective, it does nothing to reunite children who have already been separated.
Just hours after singing the executive order, President Trump once again blamed the Democrats for manufacturing the controversy. During a rally, he said the Democrats were using this issue to distract from the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton. He also reiterated that he would maintain a tough stance on immigration.
Our assessment is that President Trump was left with no choice but to end the policy as politically, even allies came out against separating children from their families. As we stated earlier, an extremely stringent immigration policy may not be sustainable in the long run. However, one of the main agendas of the Trump presidency has been to put an end to illegal immigration, especially from the Mexican border. He will have to toe a tough line between enforcing policy and making sure it remains humane at the end of the day.