In a dramatic turnaround, Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he was putting an end to the separations of migrant families who arrived illegally in the United States, which provoked a wave of global indignation and deep discomfort within his party.
Since the announcement in early May of a policy of “zero tolerance”, more than 2,300 children and young migrants, mostly fleeing the violence that ravages Central America, have been separated from their families after their arrest at the border.
“This is particularly important to me (…) We do not like to see separated families,” said the Oval Office the US president by signing the decree.
The law stipulates that criminal prosecution will continue against those who cross the border illegally but that parents and children will be detained together pending their case.
“We are going to have very strong borders, but we will keep the families together,” Trump said.
This flip-flop has created a surprise in Washington and across the country: for several days, the White House has been saying that it was only applying the law and that only a modification of the latter by the Congress would put an end to separations so criticized.
Many elected officials and human rights organizations have denounced the cynicism of the tenant of the White House.
“The president credits himself with having heroically solved the scandalous crisis created from scratch by his own policy,” quipped David Axelrod, former adviser to Barack Obama.
The civil rights organization ACLU lamented that the crisis has caused “irreparable damage to thousands of migrant families”. She also ruled that the announced decree would replace one crisis with another: “Children have no place in prison,” she said.
Griffin, a pediatrician who has been caring for children detained on the border between Texas and the Mexican state of Chihuahua for ten years, told AFP the desperation of separated children.
“The children held out their hands through the metal fence, crying and trying to reach their mother,” she said. “It was horrible (..) toddlers and babies are locked up in these centers”.
Trump, who once again called on Congress to deal with the immigration issue, admitted that his wife Melania and his daughter Ivanka had weighed in on the decision, stressing that the issue was particularly important to them.
“Thank you President for making this crucial decision to end the separation of families on the border,” tweeted Ivanka Trump a few minutes after the signing.
By signing his decree, the Republican billionaire removes the “urgency” with which parliamentarians still felt this morning they had to act, said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, while pushing for a law is still approved to engrave in the legislative marble the will not to separate families.
The parliamentary path promises however arduous despite the Republican majority in Congress.
In a state of confusion, House Republican Leader Paul Ryan announced a few hours ago that he would put a bill in the House of Commons on Thursday to prevent these separations.
But it is not yet certain that he manages to rally all his troops around a text that should also include other aspects of immigration clinging hard and moderate wings (status of “Dreamers”, net reduction of legal immigration).
The Democrats have already said that they will not vote for this law. And even if it passes the lower house, its approval is largely compromised in the Senate, where Republicans have a very small margin (51-49).