On Wednesday, Trump reversed himself and took executive action aimed at curbing the separation of families.
The order does not end the "zero-tolerance" policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally.
The order also asks Secretary of Defense James Mattis to make available any existing military facilities for the housing and care of immigrant families. Six American airlines have told the Trump administration not to use their aircraft to transport child migrants who have been separated from their parents.
"If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law", he said, speaking to an audience he might have imagined lurking on the other side of the border.
"I don't think they have figured out what the legal consequences might be of trying to keep the parents together with the children indefinitely", said Representative Carlos Curbelo, a member of Trump's Republican party, after the meeting. That's just what he did.
"The Flores Settlement prohibits the indefinite detention of children - even with their families - and any order to undermine this critical protection will be immediately challenged in court", said senior Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.
Justice Department lawyers will seek permission to allow for the detention of families until criminal and removal proceedings are completed. Hamilton also voiced support for legislation that would allow for prolonged detention of children alongside their parents.
And it didn't do much for the teeming outrage over the issue. "And they are going for the country extremely well", the president said. "There are workable alternatives", president Richard Cohen said in a statement.
In many cases, these adults are the parents of the child border crossers, but in some circumstances, the children are being trafficked and smuggled across the border by illegal aliens looking to be released into the United States.
"It's a awful situation", Welch, 43, said of the distraught children.
Trump's family apparently played a role in his turnaround.More news: Likening US policy on migrant children to Nazis an 'exaggeration': attorney general
"We should not have to choose between separating parents from their children and expanding the shameful practice of imprisoning families", said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council.
Trump also said Wednesday that he will "be doing something that's somewhat preemptive but ultimately will be matched by legislation", as lawmakers are struggling to find common ground on legislative solutions to family separations.
The House is poised to take action on two Republican immigration-reform bills, but it was not clear Wednesday if House leaders would be able to muster enough support to pass either.
"We are keeping families together". The official was not authorized to discuss Melania Trump's thinking on the record and spoke on the condition of anonymity. She was heckled at a restaurant Tuesday evening and has faced protesters at her home.
Trump voter Terry Welch of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, said he blames Congress and its GOP leadership for not reforming immigration laws, though he admits he doesn't like Trump as a person. He called them "extremist open-border Democrats".
"We want security for our country".
The administration recently put into place a "zero-tolerance" policy in which all illegal border crossings are considered crimes.
At least four children have joined those ranks in recent weeks, the first to arrive in OR after being separated from their families under the controversial Trump administration policy aimed at discouraging illegal immigration.
"Our focus is on continuing to provide quality services and care to the minors in HHS/[Office of Refugee Resettlement] funded facilities and reunifying minors with a relative or appropriate sponsor as we have done since HHS inherited the program".
The order maintains an exception for when the child is at risk or there is concern the parent would pose a risk to the child's welfare. However, at the 20-day mark, under the Flores consent decree, the department will have to release the children from custody. And when he signed an executive order on Wednesday to end forced separations on his own, they shrugged. Other recent rulings, upheld on appeal, affirm the children's rights to a bond hearing and require better conditions at the Border Patrol's short-term holding facilities.
"I call on the Oversight Committee to start the process of accounting for every single child the Trump Administration separated from his or her parents in the name of the United States of America", said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.