President Donald Trump said Wednesday he plans to sign an executive action designed to keep families together during detention on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that,” he told reporters during a White House event after saying he wanted families to be kept together. “I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat pre-emptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure.”
The action is expected to allow families to be housed together even while adults in the family are being detained or prosecuted for crossing the U.S. border illegally, or for seeking asylum at the border outside of a designated border entry point.
Speaking at the start of a meeting with members of Congress, Trump said he faced a dilemma as criticism of his administration’s policy has grown louder in the past week.
“The dilemma is if you’re weak… the country is going to be overwhelmed with [undocumented immigrants] … If you’re strong, then you don’t have any heart. Perhaps I’d like to be strong,” said the president, according to pool reporters in the room.
A document was reportedly being drafted on Wednesday by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in collaboration with White House lawyers. Nielsen has been the administration’s most public face in defending the highly controversial policy, put in place this spring.
The Department of Defense is expected to play a role in the action by assisting two other agencies DHS and the Health and Human Services Department, which are being stretched to the limit by the demands of housing the surging numbers of individuals who are being taken into custody.
So far, at least 2,000 children have been separated from their parents under the new “zero tolerance” policy, under which every adult detained at the border is immediately taken into custody for prosecution.
It was not immediately clear Wednesday what would happen to the children who have been separated already.