WASHINGTON — President Trump caved on Wednesday, signing an executive order ending family separations at the Mexican border. Trump’s use of “Dreamers” and children as leverage to get funding for his wall is sidelined for now.
Trump retreated because his “zero tolerance” policy of taking children from parents at the border triggered an uproar – from Republicans to Democrats to even Pope Francis. Keep in mind that “zero tolerance” is still the policy – but families will be kept together. Families who crossed the border illegally would still be subject to prosecution.
Under Trump, youths caught in situations not of their making become pawns.
Trump’s move to deport “Dreamers” – youths brought to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own – and stockpiling migrant kids – turned out not to be a shortcut to get Congress to swiftly fund his border wall. The one Mexico was supposed to pay for.
With midterms ahead, this Trump-manufactured crisis threatened Republican control of the House and Senate because people, no matter their politics, realized that yanking babies and little kids away from parents – even if they crossed the border illegally or were seeking asylum – should not have become a Trump administration priority.
And Trump’s own executive order shows – despite what he has been saying, despite what Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirsjten Nielsen, Vice President Pence and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have been saying, incorrectly, that only Congress can keep families together – Trump had the power to reverse his own policy.
Signing the executive order, flanked by Pence and Nielsen in the Oval Office, Trump went far down a rabbit hole, acting as if this talk about needing Congress never happened.
“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.
“So 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.”
How it works
Presidents, as do prosecutors, local officials, police, have a lot of leeway to set priorities when it comes to carrying out the law. Traffic cops don’t give tickets to everyone going 5 miles past the speed limit, though speeding is speeding, and it is against the law.
Trump has been in office more than 500 days and it was only in May that the Trump administration decided on its “zero-tolerance” border policy.
Trump, speaking earlier to Congressional Republicans at the White House, presented the complex immigration crisis as a simple binary choice, which it is not.
Said Trump, “The dilemma is that if you’re weak, if you’re weak — which some people would like you to be — if you’re really, really pathetically weak the country is going to be overrun with millions of people, and if you are strong then you don’t have any heart. That’s a tough dilemma. Perhaps I’d rather be strong but that’s a tough dilemma.”
As House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said at his own press conference on Wednesday, there is no need for a “ridiculous” choice. Government can choose to keep families together and enforce the law.
Using immigrant children as hostages
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in a statement addressed using children as “hostages.”
“Make no mistake: the President is doubling down on his ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. His new Executive Order criminalizes asylum-seekers and seeks to indefinitely detain their children.
“… President Trump and his enablers in Congress have taken these children hostage to try to enact their anti-immigrant agenda into law. Don’t be fooled: this crisis does not need a bill to fix it—it requires Republican members of Congress to stand up and call for an end to this monstrous Trump Administration policy.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement, “When Donald Trump forces young boys and girls to be torn from the arms of their mothers and fathers, when families are ripped apart and children are kept in cages, we must be clear that people from all nations have made America great for generations, and we must continue to welcome those who seek a better life in our great city and this great country.”
Gutierrez in the House
House Democrats, stepping up their protests against Trump’s zero tolerance policy, on Wednesday morning brought children under the age of 12 to the House floor to dramatize the heartbreaking crisis.
After a string of Democrats gave short speeches in the well of the House chamber, pleading with Trump to keep families together, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., wrapped up, calling for children on the floor to join him.
Gutierrez was gaveled out-of-order for a “breach of decorum,” stemming from July 7, 2016, House rules prohibiting “exhibitions” in the well. After Gutierrez continued to speak, the House was declared in recess.