Amid massive public backlash and pushback from Democrats — and some Republicans — in Congress, President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday, June 20, ending migrant family separation at the US border.
However, the fight for migrant rights must continue. Here’s why:
the executive order is not a permanent solution
The executive order Trump signed Wednesday states that there will be a temporary halt to separating families at the border. The LA Times and other outlets point out that administration officials have called Wednesday’s order a “stopgap measure” — basically, an emergency, short-term solution — until a 1997 court settlement known as the “Flores settlement” is revised. That process could take a long time, and the administration won’t say whether they have a backup plan if they’re unable to get a court’s exemption or pass replacement legislation through Congress.
In the meantime, Trump’s order still leaves migrants in significant peril. For starters, migrants will still be detained; the difference is that, instead of being separated, they will be detained together. This means children and their parents will still be incarcerated, perhaps indefinitely, for seeking asylum.
Further, there are currently no plans to reunite the families that have already been separated. In fact, late Wednesday night, migrant children were flown from Texas to New York to be detained there.
When he signed the order, Trump affirmed that a “zero tolerance” migrant policy would still be in effect at the US-Mexico border. All of this adds up to a continued cycle of arrests, detainment, deportations, and even more family separations.
additional temporary changes aren’t helping migrants
The Washington Post reports that a CBP official said, “We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody.” This effectively means that the administration is buying time to ramp up ICE’s capacities to detain migrants.
Republicans are working on more anti-immigrant legislation
As a “compromise” to Wednesday’s order, Republicans in Congress are attempting to pass even more anti-immigrant legislation — specifically, a bill that would provide $25 billion to build a “border wall,” keep families detained in family detention centers, and create a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented youth. That last part sounds promising, at least, but there’s one major catch: The bill is expected to fail.
Just ahead of the vote that was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, GOP leaders in the House postponed the vote, according to the Washington Post.
but the fight continues
Immigrant communities and other activists understand that Trump’s executive order and the temporary CBP stance on deferrals for prosecution are not solutions to this crisis. Organizers of actions that were called before the order are still planning to move full steam ahead, and even more are in the works.
The Women’s March has also called for a day of civil disobedience in light of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. In a statement announcing the day of action, the Women’s March said, “We will take escalated action in D.C. on June 28th demanding lawmakers and federal officials do everything in their power to #EndFamilyDetention. On Saturday, June 30, we will rise up in cities across the nation to say #FamiliesBelongTogether. These children and families are counting on us.”
In Portland, Oregon, activists have staged an ongoing occupation of a local ICE facility, camping out and blocking the entrances to the building since Father’s Day. This week, the Portland ICE office announced it was temporarily closing the facility due to the occupation. Occupiers in Portland have called for other cities where there are ICE facilities to follow suit.
Various groups around the country, from New York to San Diego to Chicago and Texas, are planning other protests of different sizes and scales. Activists are still helping to raise funds and recruit volunteers for organizations that work directly with migrant detainees, refugees, and asylum seekers. If everyone keeps working hard, there will be plenty more actions to come — and, hopefully, results.
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(Images via John Moore; Mario Tama; Spencer Platt/Getty Images)