President Trump has signed an executive order claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, but critics warn the order could lead to the indefinite detention of entire families. The government has no plans to reunite the thousands of children already separated from their families with their parents. We go to Washington, D.C., to speak with Franco Ordoñez, White House correspondent for the McClatchy Washington Bureau. His latest story is headlined “Trump’s immigration order replaces one crisis with another.”
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Trump Admin to Indefinitely Detain Migrant Families Together; No Plan to Reunite Separated Children
- Part 2: GEO Group & Private Prisons Stand to Profit as Trump Pushes Indefinite Family Detention
- Part 3: Report from McAllen, Texas: No One Knows What Will Happen Now to Separated Migrant Children
- Part 4: Lawsuit Claims Detained Migrant Children Have Been Forcibly Injected with Powerful Psychiatric Drugs
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Trump has signed an executive order claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, but critics warn the order could lead to the indefinite detention of entire families. As for the thousands of children already separated from their families, the government has no plans to reunite them with their parents. Trump made the announcement Wednesday as he stood with Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border. And border security will be equal, if not greater, than previously. So we’re going to have strong, very strong, borders, but we’re going to keep the families together. I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated. Thank you very much, everybody.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’ll get the wall—we’ll get the wall done. We’ll get the wall done. Yes?
REPORTER: Did Ivanka Trump show you photos of the children being separated from their parents?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No. Ivanka feels very strongly. My wife feels very strongly about it. I feel very strongly about it. I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated. At the same time, we don’t want people coming into our country illegally. This takes care of the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump also told reporters Wednesday, quote, “We don’t want people coming in from the Middle East through our border using children to get through the line.” The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on Trump’s travel ban by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, children taken from their parents continue to be shipped to shelters and detention centers around the country. In New York, people went to the airport to greet children with signs that welcomed them in Spanish. This comes as the Associated Press reports immigrant children as young as 14 who were housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while in handcuffs, locked in solitary confinement for long periods and left nude and shivering in concrete cells.
We begin today’s show in Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Franco Ordoñez. He is White House correspondent for McClatchy, his latest story headlined “Trump’s immigration order replaces one crisis with another.”
A lot has happened in the last 24 hours, in the last six weeks, in the last months or year and a half. But, Franco, talk about President Trump reversing himself, what this executive order means, and what will happen to the thousands of children who are now jailed.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: It’s quite—it really has been quite a turn of events in the last 24 hours. President Trump flipped. I mean, he said that he was going to force the Democrats to come to the table. He tried several times to blame this, his own policy, on the Democrats. And in the end, he reversed himself and came out with this executive order, under tremendous pressure from Republicans, from some in his family and from segments of his important base, his loyal base—the religious community, for one.
What the executive order does is essentially says that they are no longer going to separate children from their mothers at the border when they come in. But there’s a big question about how that will be done and when that will be done. There is a Flores agreement—it’s called the Flores—it’s a 20-year-old agreement that was relitigated just a few years ago that limits the ability of the government to detain children for more than about 20 days. Trump says he’s going to keep the families together for the length of their court hearings. That can be a year, two years, even longer. The courts are likely not going to allow that.
So this is a big question: Is the president going to seek permission first, or is he going to ask for forgiveness? Is he going to go to the court and say, “Hey, can we relitigate, renegotiate this long-standing agreement?” Or is he just going to lock up the children with their parents, keep them longer than the 20 days and wait for the lawsuits? We shall see. But this thing is not going away. This is going to be a continuing battle, for sure.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Franco, can you explain when you think this executive order will be implemented?
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: I think they’re trying to implement it very quickly. But as I point out, it’s like this court—this major court agreement limits the administration from holding these children with their parents for more than 20 days. The children, as you have pointed out, are not going to be immediately reunited with their parents. That is another big question that the Trump administration continues to get flak over. So there’s a lot still to happen here. There’s a lot of things that are unclear that we’re going to continue to be asking questions about today.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, explain how this can possibly work. And also, if you can clarify the numbers for us? The government says they have something like, well, more than 2,300 kids. The Intercept is saying if you go back a few months, you add another, what, like 1,400 kids to this, that they have something like 3,700 from last October. But how do they match up these children with these parents? Some of these parents have already been deported.
And as we noted in headlines, you have the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, saying, “How is it possible we have 239 children here in New York City who are being held, as young as, what, 9 months old, and we didn’t know about it?” he said. He’s the mayor of New York. How do they reunite the children and the parents that have already been separated, many of whom the government has said didn’t have proper documentation to link the two?
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: It’s a major problem. And we reported yesterday that this replaces one crisis with another. This, when we were referring—we were referring to the family detention policy. You’re pointing out essentially a third crisis: How do you reunite these children? I’m not sure the administration completely knows. When we asked this question, they said they were working on this, looking into it, but this is a work in progress. I mean, as you know, they only—until 24 hours ago, they had no plans on doing this. They were continuing to fight to maintain this policy, to try to get the Democrats to the table so that they can negotiate a settlement, to hope for today that Congress could vote on a measure that would end this situation. That looks increasingly unlikely, so you see what Trump did last night in issuing the executive order.
There are so many questions about what is going to happen to these kids. Yes, there has been about 2,300 children who have been taken from their parents from before—since the “zero tolerance” policy put into place. There are other children, as well. There’s actually about 11,000 children who are without parents and guardians. That includes, of course, more the unaccompanied children who came by themselves. But this issue of children and how you’re going to handle them is going to be a big issue in the next few days, in the next few weeks. It is going to be a serious problem.