US President Donald Trump caved into domestic and international pressure tonight, signing an executive order stopping the separation of immigrant children from their parents after they had been caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.
The order requires that immigrant families be detained together when they are caught entering the country illegally. It also moves parents with children to the front of the queue for immigration proceedings.
The order does not end a "zero tolerance" policy that calls for criminal prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally.
“It's about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said as he signed the order at an Oval Office gathering today.
Videos of children in hastily built detention centres had sparked anger in the US and abroad with figures from politics, religion and business lining up to condemn the policy.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Pope Francis, Canadian Prime Minister Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former US first lady Laura Bush were among the heavyweight figures that criticised the policy.
Business leaders also showed their displeasure, with Apple chief executive Tim Cook describing the separation of children from their parents as “inhumane” and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg saying in a post: “We need to stop this policy right now”.
Three US airlines issued statements today before Trumps U-turn saying they would not carry migrant children who had been separated from their families.
American Airlines, United and Frontier all issued statements saying that the policy clashed with their company values.
United chief executive Oscar Munoz said the policy is "in deep conflict with our company's values," while American Airlines said the policy “is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines – we bring families together, not apart".