Bowing to immense political pressure, President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that walked back his policy of separating families at the border.
“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” said Trump as he signed the order, according to The New York Times. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
However, the executive order is far from the end of this debacle. Experts say the policy of separating families may resume if the courts or Congress do not change an existing rule, the Flores settlement, which states the U.S. government cannot hold children in detention for longer than 20 days.
But the end of the Flores settlement is no happy ending. Then, children may find themselves in jail "indefinitely" alongside their family members, warned the American Civil Liberties Union in a series of posts to Twitter deploring the "irreparable damage to thousands of immigrant families."
"Trump's order replaces one crisis for another: children don't belong in jail at all, even with their parents, under any circumstances," the ACLU wrote. "If [the president] thinks placing families in jail indefinitely is what people have been asking for, he is grossly mistaken."
Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also blasted the Trump administration for its "horrific treatment of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border." The LGBT organization continued to place pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation that helps these families as well as the thousands of undocumented young people in legal limbo since Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
“Instead of breaking up immigrant families and throwing unreasonable obstacles in front of asylum seekers, the Trump-Pence Administration and Congress should be ensuring basic human rights and working on a clean Dream Act that honors our country’s commitment to over a million undocumented immigrants, including over 75,000 LGBTQ young people," Griffin said in a statement. "They must also act to immediately end detention of children."
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders also condemned the executive order. It "merely replaces one inhumane act with another," the former presidential candidate wrote on his Facebook page. "In response to the overwhelming public outrage at his administration’s policy of tearing children away from their parents at the border, this administration thinks the appropriate response is to indefinitely detain families. This executive order is an affront to our moral values and runs afoul of our nation’s laws. When you have the most powerful nation on earth saying that it is acceptable to detain families indefinitely, you are sending a signal to countries around the world that this is how they can treat immigrants and minorities. I am hopeful that, as we have seen with other racist and xenophobic Trump policies, the courts will step in to rein in these unlawful actions."
The more than 2,300 children separated from their families as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy will not immediately be reunited with their parents. The executive order included neither a timeline for family reunions nor specifics on whether families would remain separated while detention facilities are found or constructed.
For now, these children will remain separated while their parents stay in federal custody for legal proceedings. “There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases,” Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed to the Times.
A day of action, Families Belong Together, is being held June 30 in protest of Trump's "zero tolerance" policy. Find a rally location at FamiliesBelongTogether.org.