Trump's move to halt family separations leaves questions unanswered

Trump's move to halt family separations leaves questions unanswered
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President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE's executive order to halt his administration's practice of separating migrant families at the border dominated the Sunday show circuit this week, as the country's leaders grapple with the question of what comes next.

Lawmakers and former White House officials weighed in on the immigration debate and Trump’s newly signed order, which sought to quell sharp criticism of his administration's "zero tolerance" policy that led to more than 2,000 migrant families being separated.

Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said on ABC's "This Week” that the recent news cycle was dominated by "gripping imagery and terrible optics" for the White House — some of which could have been avoided.


Bossert defended the administration's zero tolerance policy, which prosecutes migrants who cross into the U.S. illegally. He added, however, that the country's detention centers did not have the resources to handle the number of immigrants being apprehended.

"Although it's an understandable and righteous decision ... to prosecute any illegal entrant into the country, almost from the outset, we didn't have the capacity to detain these children, together or separately," he continued.

The Trump administration drew widespread criticism this week as images surfaced of migrant children detained in caged holding centers and audio of children crying for their parents reverberated from social media to the House floor.

Hoping to tamp down the growing wave of bipartisan outcry, Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday undoing his administration's practice of separating migrant families at the southern border. 

The order, which allows most migrant families to be detained together, left a flurry of questions for families who had already been separated and for those facing an indefinite waiting period for a future court date.

Bossert said Sunday that he doesn't believe the order will "survive three weeks," because it clashes with a 2015 ruling from a circuit court. The judge called former President Obama's policy of detaining children and parents together "inhumane."

"There is no way this executive order survives first contact, because her view of President Trump will be harsher," he continued.

Current law states that the federal government cannot keep children in immigration detention centers for more than 20 days. The decades-old provision, known as the Flores settlement, has prompted lawmakers to seek legislation that would circumvent the rule and align with the president's executive order.

"I think the White House has not been clear on how bad the Flores settlement is,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press.”  

In light of Trump's latest executive order, GOP lawmakers are reportedly readying a narrowed immigration bill that would allow migrant children to stay in detention centers with their parents beyond that period.  

The news comes days after the House postponed a vote on a compromise immigration bill led by a group of centrist Republicans. The vote is expected to happen next week.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) on Sunday said Trump is supportive of the more moderate Republican immigration bill in the House, even though the president is urging lawmakers to abandon efforts to pass the legislation.

McCaul told “Fox News Sunday” that he spoke with the White House on Saturday, and that Trump is “still 100 percent behind us.”

Trump, however, tweeted on Friday that “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November.”

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), meanwhile, charged Trump with using immigration rhetoric and "cruel, inhumane policies" to "gin up" his political base ahead of November's midterm elections.

"The president uses words like 'they're breeders,' 'in sanctuary cities they're protecting breeders.' He said yesterday 'they come to infest.' I mean, these are the kinds of words that the Republican Party and this president uses," Gutiérrez said on ABC's "This Week." “And he doesn't use it as immigration policy, he doesn't use it as border control policy, he uses it as an issue in order to energize his political base for the midterm elections.”

"It's wrong to separate babies, to use cruel, inhumane policies in order to gin up your political base," he continued. 

Lawmakers have also criticized Trump for attempting to lay blame for his administration's policy on Democrats.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on Sunday that the constant attacks only undermine efforts to broker a deal for immigration reform.

“Congress has to fix this. And what’s bothersome is the president’s rhetoric about the Democrats and their unwillingness to have any type of border security or control,” Flake said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Flake, who is retiring in January, noted that Democrats have voted in the past to support billions of dollars in funding for border security enhancements.

“They are on record supporting significant border control,” Flake said. “And so, when the president says that and calls them ‘clowns’ and ‘losers,’ how does he expect the Democrats to sit down and work with Republicans on these issues?" 

“Words matter, what the president says matters, and he ought to knock that off,” added Flake.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Trump must work with Democrats on immigration and make clear that the United States “is not a nation which tears children from their parents.”

“Clearly, anyone who looks at the record understands that the Democrats have been serious about comprehensive immigration reform, that’s what the American people want, and a path towards citizenship for people who are undocumented,” Sanders said during an interview on CNN’s "State of the Union."

Before Trump signed his executive order, lawmakers voiced frustration with the White House’s shaky and often changing reasoning behind separating immigrant families in the first place.

Lankford on Sunday said the Trump administration has not been fully transparent about its policy on immigrants crossing the southern border illegally.

"Do you feel as if the White House has been fully transparent with the American public about what they're trying to do here?" host Chuck Todd asked Lankford on "Meet the Press."

"I don't, actually. Now this has been one of the great frustrations," Lankford said.

More than 2,000 children are still under federal custody and have yet to be reunited with relatives. The Department of Homeland Security said late Saturday that it knows the location of all children separated from their parents, unveiling a vague plan to initiate family reunifications.

The department said 522 children have been reunited with their parents, but did not provide a timeline for additional reunification efforts.

Trump, who has made the crackdown on immigration a central tenet of his administration, renewed calls for tougher policy on the issue.

“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order,” Trump tweeted. "Our Immigration policy, laughed at all over the world, is very unfair to all of those people who have gone through the system legally and are waiting on line for years!"

The president's call to eliminate due process from deportation cases is likely to draw pushback from critics and immigration advocates.