Trump’s Shift on Migrant Families, and More Political Stories This Week

This week, the country was consumed with the plight of migrant children being detained and separated from their parents. Here’s what happened in Washington and at the southern border — and some links to other political news if you want to read further.

In Washington

President Trump caved to political pressure and signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border. But enforcing the order proved chaotic.

Undocumented migrants waiting on Wednesday for asylum hearings in Tijuana, Mexico. The House delayed a vote this week on an immigration proposal, punting the bill to next week.CreditSandy Huffaker for The New York Times

At the beginning of the week, President Trump and his administration doubled down on its policy of separating migrant children from their parents, with the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, mounting an aggressive defense.

But facing outcry from both political parties, Mr. Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that would end the separation of children and families, opting instead to detain them together indefinitely. A federal judge will consider the order, and could potentially refuse to grant the administration the necessary authority to detain families for more than 20 days.

Hours after signing the order, the president reiterated his hard-line stance on immigration: he vowed that the administration would be “just as tough” during a rally on Wednesday, and chose to lament deaths caused by people who “shouldn’t be here” during an event on Friday.

As of Friday, Mr. Trump faced confusion and tense arguments among senior government officials over how to enforce the executive order. The Pentagon, for its part, is preparing to shelter as many as 20,000 migrant children on four American military bases.

In Congress, there was more disarray among Republicans over immigration legislation, as the House rejected a hard-line immigration bill on Thursday and twice delayed a vote on a compromise bill.

Additional Reading

On the border

The plight of the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents remains unresolved.

Asylum seekers waited outside the port of entry in Tijuana on Tuesday.CreditSandy Huffaker for The New York Times

Despite the president’s executive order, it is unclear how the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents will be reunited with their loved ones. Many migrant mothers have no idea how to get their children back. (Here’s where they’re being held.)

Government officials faced intense outcry over “tender age” shelters for children under 12. Many are toddlers and babies and require special care. Audio from a detention center released on Monday, in which children cry out for their parents in between sobs, also offered more insight into such shelters.

The business of housing, watching and transporting migrant children in shelters and detention centers along the border is a multibillion-dollar one. Melania Trump, the first lady, visited one on Thursday, but her choice of a jacket on the way there was what made headlines.

Several governors from both parties announced they would withhold or recall National Guard troops from efforts at the border between the United States and Mexico, citing the child-separation policy. The president’s “zero tolerance” policy has also flooded criminal courthouses like Texas and California.

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In other political news

The Supreme Court issued decisions on privacy and sales taxes; the United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council; tensions over tariffs and trade continued to rise, and more.

The Supreme Court’s ruling made a major statement on privacy in the digital age.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

The Supreme Court issued a number of decisions this week, including ruling that the government generally needs a warrant to collect troves of location data about the customers of cellphone companies. The court also decided that internet retailers can be required to collect state sales taxes, even in states where they have no physical presence. (Read more about the court’s biggest decisions in 2018.)

The United States became the first country to voluntarily withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, rebuked human rights watchdogs and the council’s criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Mr. Trump unveiled on Thursday a plan to overhaul the federal government, intended to reorganize social welfare programs in a way that would make them easier to cut, scale back or restructure. It is likely to face significant opposition in Congress from Democrats and some Republicans.

Behind the plan to enforce tariffs on China is concern that Beijing is using industrial policy to dominate industries of the future. The tariffs on Chinese, European and other international goods are starting to affect industries through the American economy, even as the administration doled out its first set of exclusions to the metal tariffs.

Mr. Trump will meet Queen Elizabeth II in Britain next month and is hoping to meet with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, in the next few weeks.

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