Since then, the administration has been steadily eroding protections for immigrant children and families.
The event in the city of Elizabeth on Sunday came as news stories highlighting the family separations intensified political pressure on the White House, even from some of President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans. Even evangelical supporters like Franklin Graham said its policy was "disgraceful".
"This was an act of the administration", Pelosi said.
Children would be separated from their parents if the families had been apprehended entering the country illegally, John Kelly, then the Homeland Security Secretary, said in March 2017, "in order to deter more movement along this terribly unsafe network".
Keilyn Enamorada Matute, from Honduras, with her 4-year old son, as they surrender themselves to Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico to the United States, in McAllen, Texas. The asylum-seekers were then sent to a customs processing centre for possible separation.
Her eyes swollen, she cried when she asked a paralegal what she most wanted to know: When could she see her son again?
Previously, many illegal immigrants were allowed to remain at liberty while they awaited proceedings. "Trump and Sessions say they are following laws". Miller claimed that this practice just incentivized more migration.
There is no law that requires parents be separated from their children at the border. The Office of Refugee Resettlement is responsible for finding homes for unaccompanied migrant children, the ones who attempt to enter the country without their parents.
The "forced family breakup" policy Trump was referring to is one enforced by his own administration, specifically the zero-tolerance policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May.
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Parents have since been arrested and placed in quick federal court proceedings near the border. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Sunday that the number "may well be higher" than that.
Though Trump on Friday declared that "I hate the children being taken away" in reference to the policy, he is reported by the Washington Post to be prepared to let the policy stand to wring concessions from Democrats in Congress as they battle over immigration reform. "But there's only one way to ensure that is the case: It's for people to stop smuggling children illegally". Stop crossing the border illegally with your children.
Cruz deflected criticism of the policy but adopted a softer tone than he offered five days earlier when he first weighed in on the controversy, defending family separation, though the message was effectively the same.
The policy has drawn condemnation from medical professionals, religious leaders and immigration activists, who warn that some children could suffer lasting psychological trauma.
In South Texas on Sunday, several Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Jeff Merkley, were due to tour detention facilities to call attention to the policy, while Representative Beto O'Rourke, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, said he would march with protesters to the border. Central American and other minors are taken into government custody before they are mostly released to sponsors in the United States.
The arrival of children fleeing violence in Central America is not new.
On the call, Department of Homeland Security also said that prosecutions have more than doubled, but acknowledges they are not now at 100%. The agency, he says, "initially seeks to determine if the child has a parent in this country, and if not a parent a close relative, and if not a close relative a more distant relative or a family friend".
Immigrant and children's advocates said the new measures are not only cruel, but costly.
"While not all of the children we are ripping from their parents will suffer the full consequences of toxic stress, many may", child psychologist Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota told BuzzFeed News. "Illegal immigration produces human tragedies that are wrong".
Trump plans to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss pending immigration legislation amid an election-season debate over an issue that helped vault the NY real estate mogul into the Oval Office in 2016.
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the immigrant advocacy program at the Legal Aid Justice Centre in Virginia, said he's never worked with immigrants who said US policies influenced their decision to move. "The Democrats can come to us as they actually are in all fairness, we are talking to them, and they can change the whole border security". "Are these moms going to stay in Guatemala?"