President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed his debunked argument that he had no authority to stop separations of undocumented immigrant families at the border, signing an executive order to keep parents and kids together, CNN reports.
“We’re signing an executive order. I consider it to be a very important executive order. It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said.
Trump’s climbdown came after he faced intense pressure from across the political spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders to halt the separations, which produced days of heartrending news coverage of crying children — some of whom were kept in cage-like detention centers.
The President claimed, though, that he isn’t backing down.
“The border is just as tough. But we do want to keep families together,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “We are keeping the family together.”
Earlier Wednesday after a frenzied morning in which he huddled with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other key officials, Trump first flagged his reversal saying, “I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure.”
Just the day before, Trump had claimed his administration’s hands were tied without congressional action.
“Under current law, we have only two policy options to respond to this massive crisis. We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options, totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law-breaking,” the President had said.
By Wednesday morning, he had changed course.
In the executive order he signed on Wednesday, Trump declared it is his administration’s policy to “maintain family unity,” including by detaining entire families together “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”