On June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.”
Earlier on June 20th, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House lawyers drafted an executive order that aimed to end the practice of separating families at the border, which has been given much attention following the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” prosecution policy, which holds that all foreign nationals illegally entering the U.S are immediately detained and placed into proceedings. Because current case law provides that children cannot be detained, they have been separated from their parents and typically placed with other family members, foster care or in facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. This practice has garnered significant controversy over the last few days.
The order signed by President Trump reiterates his administration’s emphasis on urging Congress to address U.S. immigration law. However, the document also asserts that the administration also espouses the policy of maintaining migrant family units.
The executive order includes two major directives. The first directive instructs the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that migrant families are kept together. The second directive instructs the Department of Defense to assist in housing migrant families. Many U.S. detention centers are at capacity, meaning the Department of Defense’s assistance will be crucial.
According to the order, the Attorney General must file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Flores settlement. This modification to the 1997 settlement would allow for migrant families to be detained together throughout criminal or immigration proceedings. Adjudication involving families will also be prioritized.
While this order marks some major shifts in policy, it does not end the “zero-tolerance” prosecution policy towards immigrants unlawfully entering the U.S.
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