President Donald Trump was insistent on Monday he doesn’t regret signing an executive order meant to keep migrant families together, even as the measure from last week continues to sow confusion and internal angst.
Meanwhile, his administration continued to maintain there was little they could do to appease the border crisis – including carrying out Trump’s own wishes to strip migrants of their due process rights.
The statements only furthered the notion of a White House at odds over how to end the humanitarian disaster while not appearing to soften a hardline immigration stance.
“The executive order was great,” Trump declared in response to a question from CNN’s Jeff Zeleny. “It was something that I felt we had to do.”
Trump was speaking in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting with Jordan’s king. His remarks came after a weekend of defiant tweeting, including Trump’s suggestion that undocumented immigrants not be afforded due process in their deportation proceedings.
“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
Seeking to explain that sentiment, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during a briefing on Monday that most Americans agree that a drawn-out court proceeding isn’t necessary for undocumented immigrants.
“Just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving due process,” she said, citing other ways of removing migrants from the country, including voluntary or expedited removal that don’t require a judge.
Later, however, she conceded there was little the administration could do without Congress to alter the way migrants are tried in court.
“The President’s laid out what he’d like to see. We’re still waiting on Congress to give us the ability to do that,” she said.
In private, Trump has questioned the executive order he signed last week, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. He’s asked aides why he signed a document that seemed to create more problems then it solved, particularly in the immediate hours after he signed it. Federal agencies were unable to explain what the precise effect of the order would be and disagreements broke out internally about how the order should be carried out.
In reality, an executive order wasn’t necessary to end the family separation crisis, which springs from the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. But after going back-and-forth on the matter, Trump insisted last week he be able to sign something to give the appearance of taking decisive action to end the humanitarian crisis. That set off a scramble among aides to prepare something for him to sign.
It was cast in headlines as a reversal after Trump and other members of the administration repeatedly insisted in public that only Congress could end the separations. Trump chafed at the suggestion he caved and fretted the decision made him look weak.
He denied those misgivings in the Oval Office on Monday.
“I was very, very happy that I signed that,” he said, before linking the issue to his guest, whose country has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.
“It shows, you know, we’re all talking about humanity, whether it’s what you’re doing in Jordan or what we’re doing here,” Trump said. “The laws are obsolete, the laws are horrible.”
Last week, Trump initially lent his support for two Republican-backed immigration bills before tweeting at GOP lawmakers to quit wasting their time on such measures before November’s midterm elections.
He didn’t offer much clarity on that matter Monday, but claimed a solution was coming quickly.
“We want strong borders, and we want no crime,” he said. “That’s what we want. And that’s what we’re going to get. We’re going to get it sooner than people think.”