IMMIGRATION DEBATE | Confusion swirls after Trump reversal


McALLEN, Texas (AP) — President Donald Trump’s order to stop separating migrant children from their parents spread confusion and uncertainty along the border, as officials worked to come up with a plan to reunite families while sending conflicting signals about the state of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

Parents who remained locked up struggled to get in touch with children being held in many cases hundreds of miles away. Some said they didn’t even know where their children were. Others said they had been deported without them.

Trump himself took a hard line on the crisis, accusing the Democrats of telling “phony stories of sadness and grief.”

“We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants,” he tweeted.

A senior Trump administration official said that about 500 of the more than 2,300 children taken from their families at the border in recent weeks have been reunited since May.

Federal agencies are working to set up a centralized reunification process for all remaining children at a detention center on the Texas side of the border, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

There were also signs that the administration is dialing back, for now at least, its “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all adults caught crossing into the U.S. illegally.

The federal public defender’s office for the region that covers El Paso to San Antonio said Thursday that federal prosecutors would be dismissing cases in which parents were charged with illegally entering or re-entering the country and were subsequently separated from their children.

“Going forward, they will no longer bring criminal charges against a parent or parents entering the United States if they have their child with them,” wrote Maureen Scott Franco, public defender for the Western District of Texas, in an email shown to the AP.

In the Texas border city of McAllen, federal prosecutors unexpectedly did not pursue charges against 17 immigrants Thursday. A prosecutor said in court that there “there was no prosecution sought” in light of Trump’s executive order Wednesday ending the practice of separating families.

Justice Department officials denied “zero tolerance” has been rolled back.

“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,” spokeswoman Sara Isgur Flores said.

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