Trump signs order to keep immigrant families together after insisting his hands were tied

Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump at a previous signing ceremony in the White House Oval Office. (Official White House Photo)

Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump at a previous signing ceremony in the White House Oval Office. (Official White House Photo)

By Ted Cox

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday abruptly ending his administration's policy of separating detained immigrants from their children.

Upon signing the order in the Oval Office at the White House, Trump insisted, "The border is just as tough, but we do want to keep families together."

The discovery that children of undocumented immigrants were being separated from their parents and held sometimes in what amounted to wire-fence cages caused outrage across the nation among both Republicans and Democrats, and criticism intensified this week.

Politico reported, "It was a jarring reversal for the president who has been falsely stating for days that only Congress could fix the problem."

Republicans in Congress, many facing re-election this year, backpedaled this week on the policy and in some cases pleaded with the president to call a halt to the family separations.

Democrats were outraged, including Illinois' senior U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who posted a video on Twitter.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he opposed the policy on Tuesday and called on President Trump to halt it, but he did not shift his position publicly on potentially deploying Illinois National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to enforce immigration law. Eight other governors withdrew their offer to deploy the Guard.

Pope Francis joined in the chorus of those opposing the "zero-tolerance" policy of detaining immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally and separating them from any children. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich chimed in as well on Wednesday.

Trump acknowledged there were additional legal complications, but said his administration's policy separating families would no longer be enforced. He promised "a much more comprehensive bill in the Congress" that would reform the immigration process.

As late as Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions printed an opinion column in USA Today defending the separation process by claiming that undocumented immigrants had previously known children would not be incarcerated and had exploited it as "a form of immunity." The column was printed on the White House website earlier Wednesday.

Trump also ended his signing ceremony in the White House by pledging, "We'll get the wall done," referring to his longtime proposal for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump was slated to take part in a roundtable discussion on U.S. workers later in the day in Duluth, Minn.