PORTLAND, Ore. – President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday, ending his administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S./Mexico border.
Trump signed the order just after noon Pacific Time, ending the most divisive part of his new ‘zero tolerance’ policy that charges people who enter the country illegally with misdemeanors and separates families as adults are placed in detention facilities away from their children.
Images and audio reports revealed kids kept in cages, crying for their parents.
"I didn’t like the sight of families being separated," Trump said.
Since April, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the border.
Several undocumented men who are in a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon were separated from their families during that time, according to immigration lawyers for the detainees. One man was separated from his 18-month-old daughter, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said.
At least four children who were separated from their families are in Oregon shelters.
The children were turned over from ICE custody to the Department of Health and Human Services, while adults detained at the border remained with ICE.
ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell said ICE may attempt to reunite families now that the executive order has been signed, but the reunification process has not been determined.
She said ICE headquarters will be distributing details about reunifications to media when that information is available. She did not provide a specific timeline.
The Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News it has not yet received orders on how to handle the separated children.
According to The New York Times, a spokesman for HHS said the thousands of kids who were separated from their families will not immediately be reunited.
Before the executive order was signed, ICE promised that it would attempt to reunify families after legal proceedings conclude in each family’s case.
“ICE will make every effort to reunite the child with the parent once the parent’s immigration case has been adjudicated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR),” ICE said in a statement.
A spokesman for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the governor’s office will work to help reunify families who are detained in Oregon.
“The Governor has directed staff to proactively work with to federal and local agencies, as well as community organizations, to determine the needs and resources that exist to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the families impacted by the President’s shameful immigration policies,” said spokesman Bryan Hockaday.
The American Civil Liberties Union said a question that remains to be answered after President Trump’s order is whether families will be kept together in jail for extended periods of time. That practice likely will face legal issues, as courts have said children cannot be detained for longer than 20 days. Trump said he expects litigation going forward.
“The devil is in the details,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. “This crisis will not abate until each and every single child is reunited with his or her parent. An eleventh-hour executive order doesn’t fix the calamitous harm done to thousands of children and their parents. This executive order would replace one crisis for another. Children don’t belong in jail at all, even with their parents, under any set of circumstances. If the president thinks placing families in jail indefinitely is what people have been asking for, he is grossly mistaken.”
Cutrell said for now, parents can call the Detention Reporting and Information Line at 1-888-351-4024 to find out where their children are.