Trump huddles with Republicans as backlash over family separations intensifies

Tears Akemi Vargas addresses a rally PIC AP

President Donald Trump ordered an end to the separation of migrant children from their parents on the USA border Wednesday, reversing a tough policy under heavy pressure from his fellow Republicans, Democrats and the worldwide community.

The Trump administration has defended the policy of mandatory arrests of all people crossing the border illegally, which prompts separation of children from their parents as their case awaits adjudication.

Leaders in both the House and Senate are struggling to shield the party's lawmakers from the public outcry over images of children taken from migrant parents and held in cages at the border.

The policy, introduced in May by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, caused widespread outrage in the USA this week after pictures of children being separated from their parents and placed in detention were splashed across the media.

To address the rise of families being separated at the border, the measure proposes keeping children in detention with their parents, undoing 2-decade-old rules that limit the time minors can be held in custody.

The statement is a clear signal to vulnerable Republicans anxious about keeping their seats in November that they can break with Trump on this issue.

"Worst of all, it's not just affecting border districts but suburban women as well", the operative added.

"I don't know how many separated kids have been placed or reunited with parents", Steven Wagner, a Trump appointee at HHS, told reporters. "It is immoral. And it breaks my heart". It says that while the administration will "rigorously" enforce immigration laws, it is "also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources".

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the president and other officials have repeatedly said the only way to end the practice is for Congress to pass new legislation, though both Democrats and some Republicans have said the president could stop it himself. The number of children separated from their parents and sent to HHS has increased to about70 per day. Among Republicans, however, 58% approve of the policy.

Striking down the ruling became a goal of immigration hard-liners, particularly after a 2016 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals limiting the government's ability to keep children in detention for more than 20 days. Dianne Feinstein on Monday he wanted to "help her put a stop to this human rights disaster at the border" and was willing to introduce the California Democrat's bill to do so in the House. "We are prepared to deal on those points", said Rep. Darren Soto (D) Florida. "My colleagues should mark their words and this moment - history won't remember well those who support the continuation of this policy". In the Cabinet Room, surrounded by Republican members of Congress, including Sen. Others are lambasting a do-nothing Congress. One official said it was the Justice Department that generated the legal strategy that is codified in the working executive order, and disputed the notion that Homeland Security was involved in drawing up the document.

"There is complete chaos", said Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney whose organization is suing to force the government to promptly return children to their parents. But cases where there is a concern that parents "would pose a risk to the child's welfare" have been exempted from the executive order.

Already, several Republicans have faced primary voters' wrath for breaking with Trump. "We want to be strong at the border but we also want to be compassionate", Trump said.

House Democrat Juan Vargas participated in a loud and rare protest against a sitting president by US lawmakers inside the US Capitol. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation. "Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is to secure the border", Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Democratic Sen. "There are workable alternatives", president Richard Cohen said in a statement.

Many politicians say Mr Trump could simply reverse the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy and keep families together. Forty-one Republicans joined all the Democrats to defeat that bill, which would have funded President Trump's border wall, slashed legal immigration, and provided temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants.

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