Confusion abounded a day after President Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of migrant families at the border. The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a senior Customs and Border Protection official, that Border Patrol agents would no longer refer parents who cross into the US illegally with their children to federal courthouses to face criminal charges. "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," the official told the paper. But the Justice Department quickly shot down that report, with a spokesperson tweeting, "There has been no change to the department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border."
CBP itself also denied the report, the Washington Examiner reports, saying in a statement, "The Border Patrol will continue to refer for prosecution adults who cross the border illegally." CNN reports that the executive order has created "chaos," while the AP cites "confusion and uncertainty" and the New York Times says that "federal agencies on Thursday offered competing and contradictory explanations of what was happening to immigrant families in the hours after Mr. Trump’s order, leaving it unclear where families were being held and whether they were being prosecuted." Congress could help clarify things as it considers immigration bills that include language to end family separations permanently, but the House shot down one bill Thursday and abruptly postponed voting on another. And then there's the fact that Trump's order likely runs afoul of the Flores Settlement Agreement, which mandates migrant children be released from detention centers within 20 days. On Thursday, the DOJ asked a federal judge to change that rule so families can be detained together longer than 20 days, the AP reports. More of the latest developments:
- One big reason for the "chaos" CNN mentions: It remains unclear what will happen to the 2,300 migrant children already separated from their parents. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the network, "We have a plan to [reunite parents and children], as you know we do it on the back end. So a combination of DHS, DOJ, HHS reuniting as quickly as we can."
- At least three children who were separated from their parents under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy and who had been staying in a Fort Worth, Texas, shelter will be reunited with their family Thursday. The Justice Department also agreed to release a 7-year-old after his mother, who is applying for political asylum, sued in federal court; they were due to be reunited Thursday in Washington. (More on the latest developments regarding separated children here.)
- Also in Texas, charges were unexpectedly dropped against 17 immigrants who were due to be sentenced Thursday for improperly entering the US, according to a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project. It's not clear whether they will be reunited with their children immediately.
- Virginia governor has ordered a probe into the claims of abuse against migrant children at an immigration detention facility in the state, the AP reports. More on their allegations here.
- Washington and more than a half-dozen other states plan to sue the Trump administration over the border separations, the AP reports.
- But Trump was defiant at a cabinet meeting Thursday, blasting "extremist, open-border Democrats" who, he continued to insist, were responsible for the family separations. He also blasted Mexico: "Mexico is doing nothing for us except taking our money and giving us drugs."
(Read more border separations