After sustained criticism at home and abroad, President Trump nixed his administration's family separation policy, and announced that undocumented children apprehended at the border will be detained with their families. However, the U.N. warned that Trump detaining migrant children may amount to "torture," even if they're with their parents.
“This executive order does not address the situation of those children who have already been pulled away from their parents. We call on the Government of the US to release these children from immigration detention and to reunite them with their families based on the best interests of the child, and the rights of the child to liberty and family unity,” the U.N. said in a press release. “Detention of children is punitive, severely hampers their development, and in some cases may amount to torture."
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N.'s Human Rights Office, said that the administration's new policy of detaining children with their parents is still unacceptable."
“While we acknowledge the U.S. government’s decision not to continue separating children from their parents, we understand that the practice now will be to detain the children with their parents,” Shamdasani said at a briefing in Geneva, according to Reuters. “We have said time and again the children should never be detained in relation to their or their parents’ migration status. It is never in the best interests of the child for them to be detained."
According to numbers from the Department of Homeland Security, over 2,000 undocumented have been split up from their parents by the Trump administration, which announced its new family separation policy in May. Images from detention facilities surfaced earlier in the week showing children in cages, and the Associated Press reported that undocumented babies were separated from their parents and sent to "tender age" shelters in Texas, prompting national uproar.
The backlash against the Trump administration was swift. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who falsely claimed earlier in the week that the administration didn't have a family separation policy at all, was booed by protesters as she dined at a Mexican restaurant on Tuesday. On Friday, a group of protesters gathered outside Nielsen's home in Virginia and played audio of detained children crying in Trump's detention centers. Stephen Miller, one of the most hardline anti-immigration advisers in the Trump administration, was called a "fascist" while eating at a Mexican restaurant earlier in the week, the New York Post reported.
Trump himself initially blamed Democrats for the policy his administration implemented, and incorrectly stated that the law requires undocumented children to be separated from their parents.
"We have to get the Democrats to go ahead and work with us, because as a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central American who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together," Trump said in a speech. In actuality, no such federal law exists.
Under immense pressure from the left, Trump signed an executive order ending family separation on Wednesday, although some experts warned that the language in the order could allow the policy to continue in some form or another.
But in addition to the question of reuniting the 2,000-plus detained children with their parents, it's also unclear whether undocumented parents who cross the border will still be prosecuted going forward. Border Patrol told the Washington Post that these prosecutions will be put on hold; the same day, however, the Justice Department denied this, and said those prosecutions will continue.
Equally uncertain is the fate of the two immigration bills that House Republicans have been working on for the past several weeks, one of which reportedly would have banned family separation. The lower chamber had planned to vote on the legislation Friday, but Trump came out against the bills on Friday, forcing Republican leadership to postpone the vote until next week.