Trump Orders Migrant Family Unions While Melania Visits Area

The First Lady took a damage control trip to a detention centre where children are being held.

What you need to know
  • First Lady Melania Trump has visited a Texas detention centre where migrant children are being held
  • Donald Trump reversed the law on separating children from their parents on Thursday
  • The First Lady asked workers at the centre how she could help in reuniting children with their families

WASHINGTON/MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) -- President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was directing federal agencies to begin reuniting children and parents separated at the U.S.-Mexico border after entering the country illegally, a first step to implementing his executive order reversing an administration policy that had drawn global condemnation.

Trump’s announcement came as his wife, Melania, made a damage-control visit to a border detention facility in Texas where children are being held. Video footage of children sitting in cages and an audiotape of wailing children had sparked anger as the images were broadcast worldwide.

“We want to put them together. We don’t want to have children separated from their parents,” Trump said at a meeting with his Cabinet.

Trump told the Cabinet he had directed the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services “to work together to keep illegal immigrant families together during the immigration process and to reunite these previously separated groups.”

Last week Trump had said only Congress could change the separation policy but on Wednesday he signed an executive order to keep families together during immigration proceedings. The order still faces possible legal challenges and administration lawyers were expected to file a request as early as Thursday to modify a 1997 court settlement that limits the government’s detention of minors to 20 days.

Melania Trump made an unannounced trip to the border city of McAllen to meet with staff members at a detention facility for minors and asked about their work and the treatment of children.

“I’m here to learn about your facility, in which I know you house children on a long-term basis, and also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible,” she said.

The executive order was an unusual reversal for Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a key part of his presidential campaign. It moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings but it does not end a 10-week-old “zero tolerance” policy that calls for prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally under the country’s criminal entry statute.

Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Amanda Becker, James Oliphant and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington and Mitchell Ferman in McAllen; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott.