WASHINGTON (NEWS 1130) — It was arguably the most controversial move of the Trump administration in 2018 – and one the US president did eventually back away from only weeks after immigrant holding facilities were full – of children.
Starting May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a “zero-tolerance” policy of prosecuting everyone caught crossing the border illegally.
“Operationally, what that means is we will have to separate your family. That’s no different than what we do every day in every part of the United States when an adult of a family commits a crime,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
By mid-June, 2,342 children were separated from their parents after crossing the border.
The U.S. president believed the policy was a deterrent to people tempted to cross with their children.
“If you took Zero Tolerance away, everybody would come right now. They would be getting their little belongings and heading up. You would have a run on this country, the likes nobody has ever seen,” Donald Trump said.
But the policy backfired, when images emerged of distraught toddlers torn from their parents, and teenagers in cage-like facilities.
Some shelters barred siblings from hugging each other, and others prevented workers from holding weeping kids.
WATCH: Separating families at U.S. border is ‘wrong:’ Trudeau
In June, First Lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to McAllen, Texas, the location of a shelter for children aged 12-17.
“My wife, our First Lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this, to see it as it bothered me and it bothered everybody at this table,” said Trump.
In late June, Trump had a change of heart, and altered the Zero Tolerance policy, to allow families to be detained together.
Then the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, which led to a judge to rule that all children be reunited with their parents within a month.
The deadline came and went with 700 children still not reunited with their families.
The Department of Homeland Security acknowledges children are still separated from their parents at the borders if the adults are affiliated with gangs or criminal activity.
LISTEN: NEWS 1130’s Renee Bernard looks back on Child separations at U.S./Mexico border
Children who are already American citizens by birth are also separated from parents at the border. In one case, a woman who had given birth to a girl in Georgia in 2006 returned to Guatamala in 2007, to look after her ailing mother.
She and her daughter tried to return to the US in May. The woman lost her bid to get asylum, so she is waiting for her appeal in detention. Her daughter lives with a foster family.
Meantime, Trump still talks about an illusive wall.
“We’re talking about a wall for $20 billion, $15 billion. I could even do it for cheaper. I have to. It will be better than anybody has ever seen a wall.”