By Marielena Castellanos
After a firestorm of criticism, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end the policy forcing the separation of children from their parents when entering the United States border without proper documentation.
The executive order does not end the zero tolerance policy, which means anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally will still be criminally prosecuted.
Despite this, the fear that families may not be reunited remains as well as confusion on how the reunification process between parents and their children will work and when it will begin. There is no established system to return children to their parents, and both are separated into completely different federal departments.
“It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter,” said Brian Marriott, senior director of communications at the Administration for Children and Families, a division of Health and Human Services.
There are more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s “zero tolerance” policy.
The President’s decision was a major reversal from his previous hard line language.
After signing the executive order, President Trump said he didn’t like the sight of families being separated.
“I feel very strongly about it. Anybody with a heart feels very strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated. At the same time, we don’t want people coming into our country illegally,” Trump said.
Days before signing the executive order the President said there was no way for him to take action on the crisis and that it was up to Congress to take action. He also defended family separation by blaming Democrats in a tweet where he said, “they want illegal immigrants, to infest our Country.”
In a speech this past week the President also said, “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally — which should happen — you have to take the children away.”
Photos and audio of young children distressed after being separated from their parents also intensified the public outcry.
In Washington, both Republicans and Democrats spoke against the separation of families. In San Diego, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Juan Vargas and Congresswoman Susan Davis toured local immigration detention facilities and criticized the President’s family separation policy.
Six hundred members from two churches attended by U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions filed a complaint against Sessions condemning his role in separating children from their parents. American Airlines, Southwest, United and Frontier Airlines all said they would not transport children separated from their parents.
Internationally, Pope Francis called the practice “immoral,” and British Prime Minister Theresa May called it “wrong.”
“A society is judged on how we treat our children. The whole world is watching. Trump represents the worst of the American spirit,” Founder and Director of Border Angels Enrique Morones said.
A number of rallies are planned in the San Diego region and across the country. One rally in Otay Mesa is scheduled for Friday, June 22 at 11 a.m. coinciding with a visit from U.S. California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris to the Otay Mesa Detention Facility, an ICE holding facility operated by for-profit prison company CoreCivic.
On Saturday, June 23 at 10 a.m. the Families Belong Together & Free March San Diego will be held at the Civic Center in Downtown San Diego. Concerned citizens will voice concerns about the recent family separations, the conditions the children are living under and the trauma they are experiencing.
San Diego Indivisible, a non-partisan organization, is sponsoring the march. The group also recommends those protesting to not protest at local children’s immigration shelters.