President Trump said Wednesday that he would sign an executive order, drafted by Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, ending the practice of separating children from their parents after families are caught attempting to cross the border illegally.
Trump indicated that he would sign the order to end his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration-enforcement policy, which has thus far separated roughly 2,000 children from parents who are awaiting trial. The order is expected to ensure that families remain together in specially equipped detention centers during their prosecution.
“I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that. I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure,” Trump told the White House press pool.
Administration officials reportedly expect a legal challenge in the event that they try to keep children with their detained parents, due to a 1997 order that mandates children be released from federal custody after 20 days.
The president’s comments came moments after Speaker Paul Ryan announced that the House will vote Thursday on immigration legislation that, in addition to increasing funding for border security and granting amnesty to Dreamers, would end the family separation policy and fund family detention centers. In a concession to conservatives, the House is also expected to vote Thursday on a more hardline immigration bill that does not address family separations; though neither bill has the requisite Democratic support to pass.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has already said nothing will pass, because 60 votes are required in the Senate, and Democrats think voters will vote against Republicans on this issue, irrespective of where immigration sits among nonaligned voters in terms of priority.