Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, under fire for her vigorous defense of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance " immigration policy that has led to family separations at the U.S. -Mexico border, tried to recast the issue Thursday as one about the large number of unaccompanied minors now in government custody.
Trump's order, an unusual reversal by him, moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings, but it does not end a 10-week-old "zero tolerance" policy that calls for prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally under the country's criminal entry statute.
Since early June, President Donald Trump has insisted that his hands were tied and families who wanted to enter America without permission had to be separated.
Trump's climbdown came after he faced intense pressure from across the political spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders to halt the separations, which produced days of heart-rending news coverage of crying children some of whom were kept in cage-like detention centers.
The House bills would undo a federal court agreement that limits the time that minors here illegally can be held in custody to 20 days, which would allow them to be with their parents in a detention facility indefinitely. Some children have been taken to different states.
But the decision marks a meaningful shift, after top Trump administration officials, including chief of staff John Kelly and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, said they would keep their heads down and continue on with separations in an effort to "deter" other families from bringing their children to the border. It provides US$25 billion Trump wants for his promised border wall from Mexico.
Trump issued an executive order Wednesday aimed at reversing his own policy of taking immigrant children from their detained parents, but emotions remained high.
The spectacular about-face comes after more than 2,300 children were stripped from their parents and adult relatives after illegally crossing the border since May 5 and placed in tent camps and other facilities, with no way to contact their relatives. "I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated".
Passage of the bill was always a long shot but failure may now come at a steeper price as Republicans - and Mr Trump - have raised expectations that, as the party in control of Congress and the White House, they can fix the nation's long-standing immigration problems.More news: Cristiano Ronaldo tells story behind new goatee as Portugal beat Morocco
In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump suggested that anything the House passed wouldn't pass the Senate anyway, giving already wary conservatives a reason to vote against the compromise legislation.
"If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly", he said at a June 18 White House event.
The order calls on all government agencies, especially the Defense Department, to provide any facilities that might be suitable to house families.
In a televised roundtable with members of Congress, Senators and members of his adminstration, Trump announced: "we're going to be signing an executive order. we're going to keep families together, but we still have to maintain toughness or our country is going to be overrun". If those options are exhausted, authorities must find the "least restrictive" setting for the child who arrived without parents. There are now limits on how long children can be locked up, but Trump is seeking to have those overturned in court and also for Congress to address the limits with legislation.
How long can families be detained?
"These changes are justified by several material changes in circumstances-including the ongoing and worsening influx of families unlawfully entering the United States at the southwest border", the statement said.
As the elected leader of the US, Trump has every right to demand the building of a wall on his side of the border with Mexico and to take steps he believes will secure the citizens of his country.
Joe Wilson, of SC, announced he would support the legislation after meeting Mr Trump, who he said was persuasive.