"No, no, the border is just as tough, but we do want to keep families together", the president insisted, when asked by a reporter if he was backing down.
The crisis was spawned when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a "zero tolerance" policy for border crossers. "My wife feels very strongly about it. But right now we want to fix this problem and I think we'll be able to do that".
"We need you, those children need you -and I am talking directly to my Republican colleagues- we need you to stand up to President Donald Trump", he said. Trump ended protections for Dreamers earlier in the year, although a court has ordered a stay on that motion.
While the establishment media and Democrats have focused primarily on this tiny sample of child border crossers taken from the adults they traveled across the border with, the number of American children who have been separated from their parents is vastly higher.
House GOP leaders are revising their legislation amid a public outcry over President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal crossings.
Trump's family apparently played a role in his turnaround.
The executive order seeks to work around a 1997 consent decree that bars the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention - even if they are with their parents - for more than 20 days.
The former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Sandweg, expects that hundreds of children will never reunite with their parents as a result of current policy.More news: China threatens tariffs on US lobsters as business booms
"We're signing an executive order". "Children do not belong in jail". After the Congresswoman from Wisconsin had finished speaking, Trump told her, "Say hello to your father". While a Department of Health and Human Services official initially stated that the department is not to apply the executive order to children now in HHS custody, a statement released later Wednesday said that HHS that it is "awaiting guidance on the matter".
But the reversal, which could face a legal battle, likely won't apply to the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
"The Department of Homeland Security will do what is possible to hold illegal border crossers accountable while also holding families together as long as the law allows".
It also directs Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to find housing for these families and to build facilities if necessary.
The Republican-controlled US Congress is considering legislation to address the issue. The order is fewer than 800 words, but it does little to resolve the chaos generated by the family separation policy. "But Congress still needs to act because what they're doing, while very humane, violates something called the "Flores Settlement", which means someone's going to take this to court and they're going to get it thrown out", he said.
Trump has blamed previous administrations and Democrats for not fixing immigration loopholes and the history of using "catch and release" to deal with these individuals and families.
The Flores settlement, named for a teenage girl who brought the case in the 1980s, requires the government to release children from custody and to their parents, adult relatives or other caretakers, in order of preference.
Nielsen, the president and other officials have repeatedly said the only way to end the practice is for Congress to pass new legislation, though both Democrats and some Republicans have said the president could reverse it with a simple phone call.