President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday halting his administration's policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border.
Prior to Trump signing the order, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, along with Congressional colleagues, met with the president during a roundtable discussion at the White House.
Kinzinger credited the president for boosting the morale of the military by investing in defense, and said the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico plays a role in international security. Kinzinger has supported increased border security.
"It's a bill we're going to bring up and hopefully pass in the House this week fully funds the border and takes care of these issues," Kinzinger told Trump. "And I hope the House can pass it, and I wish Democrats will join us, because there's a lot of stuff in there they'd like, because it's an 80 percent issue, but unfortunately I think they like the politics of this a little better."
Trump's order does not end the "zero-tolerance" policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally, according to the Associated Press. But it would keep families together while they are in custody, expedite their cases and ask the Defense Department to help house them. It also doesn't change anything yet for the some 2,300 children taken from their families since the policy was put into place.
Prior to Trump's announcement Wednesday, Kinzinger had issued a statement reiterating he was against the practice of separating children from their parents at the border, saying it "must end" and "it should have ended long ago."
"I am alarmed by the recent reports coming from the U.S.-Mexico border and urge the administration to take swift action," Kinzinger said in that statement.
He said he would support a standalone resolution to fix the issue, in addition to working with Congressional colleagues on a broader immigration plan.
"I hope my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, will support the compromised package that increases border security, provides a permanent solution for the Dreamers, and makes the necessary immigration reforms that will reduce the high number of illegal border crossings," Kinzinger said in the statement.
“In my Air National Guard service, I have worked along the border in patrol and other missions, and I know firsthand that it is not secure nor entirely safe," he added.
The congressman said he is not supportive of parents putting their children in danger by illegally crossing the border, saying "these parents are putting their children at risk for human trafficking, amongst other dangers."
His political opponent Sara Dady, an immigration attorney from Rockford, has been critical of Kinzinger and Congress for not passing the Dream Act. She said it is lawful for refugees to seek asylum in the United States.
"Trump says he will undo his policy of family separation at the border. Lessons learned 1) there is no law required government sanctioned child abuse and 2) there should never be a policy requiring government sanctioned child abuse. Let's see if he keeps his word," Dady tweeted Wednesday.
Until Wednesday, the president, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials had repeatedly argued the only way to end the practice was for Congress to pass new legislation, while Democrats said Trump could do it with his signature alone.
"We're going to have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together," said Trump, who added that he didn't like the "sight" or "feeling" of children separated from their parents.
Trump's order may create a fresh set of problems and may well spark a new court fight, according to the Associated Press. It's unclear what happens if no changes to law or the settlement take place by the time families reach the detainment deadline. The language also leaves room to separate children from parents if it's best for the child's welfare.
It's also unclear what will happen to the children already separated. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said his department will start reuniting detained immigrant children with their parents — but he made no specific commitment on how quickly that can be accomplished. And officials said the cases of the children already separated and turned over to their custody would proceed as usual, according to the Associated Press.
The "zero tolerance" policy put into place last month moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The policy had led to a spike in family separations in recent weeks, with more than 2,300 minors separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to Homeland Security.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.