A migrant mother from Guatemala and her seven-year-old son were reunited early Friday after being separated a month ago at the U.S. border.
Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia and her son Darwin were rejoined at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland. A day earlier, the Justice Department agreed to release Darwin after his mother sued in federal court.
The mother had filed for political asylum after crossing the border with her son. The two were to travel to Texas, where they will live while her asylum claim is being decided.
U.S. President Donald Trump told federal agencies Thursday to reunite immigrant families separated after illegally crossing into the country from Mexico.
“We want to put them together,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting Thursday while the first lady, Melania Trump, was visiting a detention center for migrant children in McAllen, Texas.
WATCH: Melania Trump at detention facility
However, there appeared to be no immediate plan in place to reunite the more than 2,300 children already separated from their families since April — igniting a fresh controversy over the conditions in which the children are living.
Public outrage over images of young people sitting in cages and audio of wailing children broadcast globally in the past week prompted Trump to sign an executive order stopping the border separations of migrant children from adults.
How officials will handle the immigrant legal cases also remains unclear. A VOA reporter at an immigration court hearing in Brownsville, Texas, Thursday morning said prosecutors dropped misdemeanor charges against 17 migrants. But the Department of Justice later insisted it is not dropping charges against detained immigrants.
DOJ lawyers Thursday asked a federal judge in California for an emergency ruling that would allow them to detain minors with their legal guardians until their immigration cases are adjudicated. Authorities now may only hold families in immigration detention for 20 days. On average, current cases are taking 721 days to resolve.
This would be “an even more clear signal that the whole purpose of bringing these prosecutions is to separate parents from children and not about enforcing the law,” David Bier, immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, told VOA.
The Trump administration’s policy has required that anyone who crosses the border illegally face criminal charges. “If it continues to be the case that some of these cases or many of them are dismissed by courts, that should be the end of the policy,” added Bier.
The president, during Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, again went on at some length decrying what he contends are the world’s worst immigration laws.
“The whole world is laughing at us and has for years,” Trump said. The president explained that what he had signed the day before was “a good executive order but it’s limited no matter how you cut it,” necessitating quick legislative action.
“The only real solution is to come together to close the catch-and-release loopholes,” said Trump. “If we don’t close those loopholes, there’s no amount of money that can solve this crisis.”
On Thursday, the House of Representatives disapproved one set of proposed changes to U.S. immigration law, and put off a vote on another proposal until next week, as Republican leaders struggled to get enough votes to win approval for a bill.
Senior White House Correspondent Steve Herman, National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin, Justice Department Correspondent Masood Farivar and Aline Barros contributed to this report.