US President Donald Trump says "we are keeping families together" after outrage in the US and abroad over the separation of 2,300 minors from their families since May 5.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to keep immigrant families together at border, but said the "zero-tolerance" prosecution policy will continue.
Trump, addressing what his administration has characterised as an unwanted side effect of his zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration, signed the order to keep families who illegally cross the US southern border together as they await immigration proceedings.
"It's about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border," Trump told reporters as he signed the measure, adding that he doesn't like the sight of children being separated from their families.
He said, "We are keeping families together."
Vice President Mike Pence added that they are calling upon Congress to change the laws. Trump added that the word "compassion" came into it.
Trump has been trying to win over congressional support on immigration amid a crisis along the border involving the separation of immigrant children from their families.
Trump's remarks came after reports that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has been working on executive action that would end the separation process.
Major crisis for Trump administration
The effort to end what has become a major crisis for the Trump administration was outlined by two people familiar with Nielsen's thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the effort before its official announcement.
The effort marks a dramatic departure for an administration that has been insisting, wrongly, that it has no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of the law and a court decision.
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 reverse it with a simple phone call.
It’s the Democrats fault, they won’t give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation. They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2018
The news in recent days has been dominated by searing images of children held in cages at border facilities, as well as audio recordings of young children crying for their parents.
Trump had tweeted earlier on Wednesday that he was "working on something."
"It's the Democrats fault, they won't give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation. They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!" he wrote.
If Trump was Egypt’s governor when Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled there as refugees, Jesus would have been separated from their parents, caged, and lost, then Paul would not have written the Epistle that Sessions quotes to justify #TrumpConcentrationCamps for children pic.twitter.com/WDlJCAOYKV— Alfons López Tena #FBPE (@alfonslopeztena) June 20, 2018
Spike in family separations
The administration recently put into place a "zero tolerance" policy in which all unlawful border crossings are referred for prosecution‚ a process that moves adults to the custody of the US Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.
The "zero tolerance" policy led to a spike in family separations in recent weeks, with more than 2,300 minors separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Report of new 'tender age' shelters
The Trump administration has set up at least three "tender age" shelters where it can lock up babies and other young children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, the Associated Press has learned.
TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan reports from McAllen, Texas.
Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley said the facilities were fine, clean and safe, but the children, who have no idea where their parents are, were hysterical, crying and acting out .
Many of them are under age 5, and some are so young they've not yet learned to talk.
The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move on Tuesday.