Trump Backs Down On Family Separations, Signing Executive Order In The Last Hour
He said he had been swayed by pictures of children who have been taken from parents while they are jailed and prosecuted for illegal border-crossing.
The new order comes amid domestic and international fury over the separation of undocumented parents and children.
Mr Trump had earlier urged lawmakers to pass a bill ending family separations.
He also wants immigration laws to be toughened under any such legislation.
“It’s about keeping families together,” Mr Trump said at the signing ceremony on Wednesday.
“I did not like the sight of families being separated,” he said, but added the administration would continue its “zero tolerance policy”.
The executive order states that immigrant families will be detained together, except in cases where there are concerns about the child’s welfare, but it is unclear for how long.
Mr Trump’s order also calls for prioritising immigration cases involving detained families.
The president said his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, who reportedly have been applying pressure on him to drop the policy in recent days, “feel strongly” about ending the practice of separating migrant families.
“I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it,” he said. “We don’t like to see families separated.”
Both Vice-President Mike Pence and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has emerged as the face of the White House policy, were both present for Wednesday’s order signing.
The president earlier said he was postponing a bipartisan congressional picnic scheduled for Thursday “because it didn’t feel right to me”.
Republican congressional leader Paul Ryan said the House of Representatives will vote on Thursday “on legislation to keep families together”.
He did not immediately provide details of the bill, but said it resolves the issue of so-called Dreamers, undocumented adult migrants who entered the US as children, “in a very elegant way”.
On Wednesday, American Airlines, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines said they did not want their planes used by the US government to transport the migrant children.
United chief executive Oscar Munoz said: “We want no part of it.”