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What Trump's Executive Order Means For Families Separated At The U.S. Border

The president reversed his course after widespread protests

President Trump, who had previously supported a policy that separated immigrant families at the U.S. border, signed an executive order ending that practice on Wednesday (June 20). The new order means that immigrant families will still be prosecuted for entering the country illegally, though now they will be detained together "indefinitely" at facilities that still may need to be built, as The New York Times reports.

Though the language of the order blames Congress's "failure to act" for having to separate families in the first place, its signing comes after widespread resistance, including from Trump's own party and from national protests held last week under the banner Families Belong Together. Protesters were galvanized to act after distressing photos and stories hit social media depicting children separated from their parents and sleeping in cages, crammed five in a room at repurposed Walmarts, or in so-called "tent cities" at costs reportedly exceeding what it would take to keep families together.

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Earlier this week, ProPublica obtained chilling audio of 10 Central American children screaming inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection after being separated from their parents, which quickly went viral. The policy has separated a reported 2,400 children from their families since late 2016.

However, as the Times points out, the executive order may face a roadblock: a 1997 settlement that prevents the government from detaining children for longer than 20 days, even if they're with their families. This may mean that immigration activists, speaking for families being held indefinitely by the government, could legally challenge the executive order.

As NBC News points out, the order does not include any plans on how the government will reunite children currently separated from their families. But concurrently, organizers are already planning to take their message of support for separated families to Washington, D.C. on June 30, as well as via coordinated rallies across the country. You can find out more information on that and on locally organized events right here.

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