Trump to sign order to stop separating families

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump yesterday said he would sign an executive order to solve the problem of illegal immigrant families being separated at the southern US border, which has sparked outrage in the United States and abroad.

"We're looking to keep families together. Very important. We're going to be signing an executive order. We are also going to count on Congress, obviously, but we are signing an executive order in a little while," said Mr Trump.

"We're going to keep families together, but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don't stand for and that we don't want," he said.

Mr Trump said he faced a dilemma between what he considered weak border enforcement policies that allowed too many undocumented immigrants into the country and stricter border enforcement that stirred accusations that "you don't have any heart". He then added: "Perhaps I'd rather be strong."

The House of Representatives is to vote today on two Bills designed to halt the practice of separating families and to address other immigration issues.

But Republicans said they were uncertain if either measure would have enough support.

While top officials have stood by Mr Trump's "zero tolerance" approach, insisting children are being held in humane conditions, criticism has swelled from international rights groups, Christian evangelicals, former US first ladies and the President's own Republican Party.

Republican lawmakers emerged from a 45-minute huddle with Mr Trump on Tuesday, energised by his backing for their immigration proposal.

It contains several of Mr Trump's main priorities, including border wall funding, protecting young "Dreamer" immigrants who were brought to the country as children, and curbs on legal immigration programmes.

With emotions running high, a handful of House Democrats protested against the Trump meeting, yelling out at Mr Trump in a rare face-to-face demonstration against a president by sitting members of Congress.

Meanwhile, human rights watchdog the Council of Europe said yesterday that Mr Trump is "no longer the moral leader of his country or the world", while Mexico's Foreign Minister condemned the separation policy as "cruel and inhuman".

The UN has slammed the practice as unconscionable, while Amnesty International blasted it as "nothing short of torture".

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said the practice was unacceptable and wrong.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2018, with the headline 'Trump to sign order to stop separating families'. Print Edition | Subscribe