Donald Trump has called for the summary deportation of illegal entrants to the US “immediately, with no courts or judges”, as his administration said it knows the whereabouts of the thousands of children separated by the controversial “zero tolerance” border policy.
Making no distinction between those entering America to seek asylum and illegal immigrants, he said he could not “allow all of these people to invade” the US as he returned to using language demonising people crossing the border.
Facing a public outcry Mr Trump reversed the policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border earlier in the week. As all adults who cross illegally are detained and prosecuted, a process that typically takes months, children have been taken into government care.
However, since that reversal the president has returned to the hardline language that was a feature of his election campaign, having previously said immigrants would “infest” the US without action. He has also repeatedly advocated for bypassing the legal process in dealing with immigration.
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” Mr Trump said via Twitter.
“Cannot accept all of the people trying to break into our Country. Strong Borders, No Crime!”
It is unclear if Mr Trump was advocating an expansion to the current law that allows for expedited removal of illegal immigrants, which his administration has embraced.
Critics said his proposal would violate the US Constitution’s due process provision, which the Supreme Court has ruled also applies to non-citizens.
“The president of the United States has just forcefully proposed the end of political asylum and no due process for migrants,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the rights group NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, wrote on Twitter.
Mr Trump’s return to such rhetoric comes as he seeks to place immigration at the centre of the Republican agenda for crucial midterm elections in November, with Democrats looking to retake control of Congress from his party. The president is also looking to retake the initiative on an issue that has become a burden in recent weeks.
Videos and audio of children being kept in wife-fence cages and screaming for the parents they have been take away sparked an international outcry and further divided a Republican Party that is struggling to agree on wider immigration reform.
Mr Trump’s executive order reversing the separation policy, signed on Wednesday, was supposed to alleviate some of the pressure, but the unclear nature of how and when children will be reunited with their parents in the order has left more questions than answers. Democrats have criticised what they see as a lack of an organised system for reunification.
Late night on Saturday, the US government released a fact sheet saying that it knew the location of all the 2,053 children in its care and offered some more detail of the approach for reuniting them with their families.
The fact sheet, released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), says a total of 522 children in the custody of border officials have already been reunited with parents.
The DHS said the Trump administration has a “well coordinated” process for how parents would be reunited with their children “for the purposes of removal”, or deportation.
How the government would reunite families has been unclear because the families are first stopped by Customs and Border Patrol, with children taken into custody by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and adults detained through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Port Isabel detention centre in Texas will serve as “the primary family reunification and removal centre” for adults in custody.
The fact sheet states that ICE has: implemented an identification mechanism to ensure on-going tracking of linked family members throughout the detention and removal process; designated detention locations for separated parents and will enhance current processes to ensure communication with children
Notices have been posted in all its facilities advising detained parents who are trying to find or communicate with their children to call a hotline staffed 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday. There are also numbers and email addresses being circulated where migrants can find out if their child has been taken into care. But it is unclear whether all detained parents have access to emails or a phone.
Deportation proceedings could take months to complete, and the fact sheet did not say whether parents and children would be reunited in the intervening time.
As for wider immigration reform, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has said the White House has assured him that President Donald Trump remains “100 percent” behind efforts in the House to pass an immigration bill.
Mr Trump had previously tweeted that Republicans should abandon immigration reform until after the November elections, blaming Democrats for the mess at the border by not supporting Republican legislation.
Republican Representative Mike McCaul of Texas told Fox News on Sunday that the House needs to pass a wide-ranging immigration bill this week. He says if the House doesn’t act, the nation will see “this human tragedy” continue along the US-Mexico border.
Mr McCaul is suggesting Congress may need to pass a “skinny” immigration bill dealing with family separation if the more wide-ranging version fails thanks to the splits between the hardline and centrist groupings in the Republican Party.
He said “at a minimum” the House needs to address the separation of immigrant children from their families at the southern border, calling it “inhumane”.