President Trump on Tuesday denied recent reports that he is planning to order the Department of Homeland Security to once again separate families that arrive at the southern border seeking asylum.
“We’re not looking to do that, no,” Trump told reporters when asked about the multiple reports published Monday indicating he would reinstate a policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents at the border last year.
In response to overwhelming public backlash over family separations, Trump signed an executive order in June ending the practice, which, he argued, he was initially forced to pursue because of a court order prohibiting the detention of minors in federal facilities for more than 20 days.
As a result of that court order, known as the Flores consent decree, parents who arrive at the border with their children are released into the country while they await their asylum hearings, which many of them never show up for.
Trump lamented the state of current immigration law in his conversation with reporters Tuesday and blamed the Department of Homeland Security’s lack of resources for the influx of migrants who have crossed into the country in recent months.
“Once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming,” Trump said, referring to a policy that would result in detention rather than immediate admittance. “They’re coming like it’s a picnic.”
Trump’s comments came two days after he announced that Kirstjen Nielsen had stepped down as secretary of homeland security — a resignation that the aforementioned Monday reports attributed to Nielsen’s opposition to reinstating family separation.
DHS announced earlier this month that there were 100,000 apprehensions at the southern border in the month of March and 76,000 in February. The numbers for both months were the highest in ten years.
While not preparing to resume family separations, the administration is planning a series of moves to harden the southern border, including the elimination of the Flores requirement, a tightening of asylum restrictions, and an increase in Border Patrol agents.