WASHINGTON — The archbishop of Los Angeles said he “welcomes” an executive order signed Wednesday by President Trump and called on Congress to act on immigration reform.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” intended to end the practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border, while maintaining the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy regarding illegal entry into the United States.
The executive order said that detained families will be held together, “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said: “I welcome the president’s executive order ending the cruel family-separation policy. Now Congress needs to act on immigration. With my brother (bishops) @USCCB, I am disappointed about the bills the House will vote on tomorrow.”
“We need a bipartisan bill like the #USAAct that provides a clear path to citizenship for #Dreamers and secures our borders. And we need it now,” Archbishop Gomez added in a subsequent tweet.
The executive order laid the blame for family separation on Congress for its “failure to act,” as well as court orders that “have put the administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”
“The Secretary of Homeland Security (secretary), shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members,” the order reads.
Minor children are not currently permitted in detention facilities where adults are held. This new executive order calls for the secretary of defense to provide the secretary of Homeland Security with existing facilities that can be used to house a family unit. If these facilities do not exist, they will be constructed.
The 1997 Flores consent decree limits the amount of time that undocumented immigrant children can be held by the federal government, whether they crossed the border with relatives or by themselves. In Wednesday’s executive order, the attorney general was instructed to “promptly file a request” with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify this agreement. With the requested modifications, undocumented immigrant families would be able to be detained together during criminal proceedings.
The attorney general was also ordered to prioritize any cases involving a detained family.
The U.S. bishops’ conference did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. The conference, as well as individual bishops, have been vocal in opposition to family separation at the border.
Speaking at the signing, President Trump said he “didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated” and that “it’s a problem that’s gone on for many years, as you know, through many administrations.”
“So we’re keeping families together, and this will solve that problem,” said Trump.
“At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border, and it continues to be a zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”