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June 26, 2018

Trump reverses course, signs order to keep families together

By Michael H. Joseph

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Separating immigrant families under Trump Administration has been a very controversial topic lately and has been in the headlines for quite some time.  In the past weeks, heartbreaking images and audio of children crying for their parents have captured the nation’s attention as lawmakers seek a solution to end the separations and the White House doubled down on its insistence that it is simply enforcing the law. Our New York and Westchester immigration attorneys know all too well the pain that a deportation of a loved one can cause and when a parent is separated from a child, the emotional damage that is caused cannot be described with words.  The Trump administration insisted  that it was merely following the law, even though no prior administration followed this policy. However, just a few days ago President Trump had said, “Under current law, we have only two policy options to respond to this massive crisis. We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options, totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law-breaking.” But by Wednesday, June 20, 2018 the administration changed course by signing executive order to keep parents and kids together.

One of the main problems is that this policy was enforced across the board, not only to those who had illegally entered, but also to those families with meritorious asylum claims, who are fleeing violence. This change in position will prevent asylum seekers from being penalized by having their children separated from them, while they pursue asylum claims, which are perfectly legal, even if the immigrant technically entered without a visa.

We’re signing an executive order. I consider it to be a very important executive order. It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said.

Trump’s change in position came after intense pressure and public outcry from across the political spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders to halt the separations, which produced days of heartrending news coverage of crying children — some of whom were kept in cage-like detention centers. The first lady has been working for several days behind the scenes, encouraging the President to keep families together, as per a White House official. She has had several private conversations with her husband, pushing him to do all he can to keep families at the border intact, whether via a legislative route, or acting alone to stop the process, the official said.

However, the Executive orders typically require input from the Office of the Legal Counsel. The details of the executive order were worked out between the White House, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, a source said. The measure would also offer protections to another vulnerable group — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients — who are undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.

The White House may run into legal difficulties if the executive order requires families to be held intact together indefinitely since a federal consent decree known as the Flores settlement says children must be released after 20 days. But the chances of the bill passing are unclear as is the case with any bill dealing with the volatile issue of immigration. The fact that it includes fundamental changes to the legal immigration system mean its chances in the Senate are even more uncertain.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, had stated that “How can we have a country if we don’t have laws and if we don’t enforce those laws?  She had further stated that “Our policy at DHS is to do what we’re sworn to do, which is to enforce the law.”

But discretion in how laws are enforced is essential in all sorts of areas. If you are going 57 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, you are technically breaking the law and should be penalized. But very few cops pull people over for going two miles an hour over the speed limit. There are a million other examples where the law says one thing but it is enforced in a way that doesn’t follow the letter of the law.

Our New York asylum lawyers will continue to work to present lawful asylum claims and reunite immigrants with their children.

 
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