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Trump signs order reversing family separation policy after tech, political backlash

"We are keeping families together," the president says, changing the administration's application of immigration rules.

President Donald J. Trump

President Donald J. Trump speaks at the White House.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

Bowing to widespread pressure from the tech industry, politicians, religious groups and others, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that will stop the separation of some families who cross the US-Mexico border.

"We are keeping families together and this will solve that problem. At the time we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance, we have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally," Trump told reporters during a signing ceremony for the order.   

"I didn't like sight or the feeling of families being separated, it's a problem that's gone on for many years, too many administrations," he added, according to CBS News. The president also said that the order will make his policy compassionate and "equally tough if not tougher." 

The signing of the order marks a sudden shift by Trump, whose administration earlier this year enacted its zero tolerance policy on immigration, prosecuting anyone who attempts to enter the country illegally. That led to the government separating more than 2,300 children from their families. The move sparked international outrage, moving tech execs and political leaders alike to speak out as photos and videos of these separations hit the airwaves.

Now Playing: Watch this: Tech CEOs speak out against family separation at border
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Apple CEO Tim Cook, for one, called the policy "inhumane." Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk said it was "immoral." And Microsoft describes itself as "dismayed." 

"Families are the backbone of society," Uber CEO Dara hosrowshahi tweeted. "A policy that pulls them apart rather than building them up is immoral and just plain wrong."

Trump and his team, meanwhile, had appeared to dig in. In a widely watched White House press conference Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen defended the administration's moves. "As long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, DHS will not look the other way," she said. That approach is more restrictive than those taken by other presidents, who have typically chosen to only prosecute drug and human traffickers and those with criminal records. 

Though he says the government will continue its zero-tolerance policy, during a cabinet meeting Thursday, Trump also said he will tell authorities to reunite families previously separated, according to a report from Bloomberg.

First published June 20 at 10:11 a.m. PT.
Update at 12:33 p.m. PT: Indicates Trump has now signed the order.
Update, June 21 at 11:06 a.m. PT: Adds that Trump, in a cabinet meeting, said he will instruct authorities to reunite families separated by his policy.

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