Protests, facility visits planned amid immigration confusion

Protesters and media gather outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an order to stop the separations. Justice Department lawyers are working on a legal challenge to allow families to be detained longer than 20 days. (AP Photo/Matt York)

MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — Protests and rallies focused around the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border are scheduled this weekend, while more than two dozen congressional Democrats planned to visit detention facilities in Texas.

More than 2,300 children were taken from their families in recent weeks under a Trump administration "zero tolerance" policy in which people entering the U.S. illegally face being prosecuted. Parents and children were being detained separately. But after public outcry, President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered that they be brought back together.

Confusion has ensued, with parents left searching for their children.

Events planned include a rally Saturday in Fort Worth, where the Texas Democratic Convention is being held, and a protest in Homestead, Florida.

The Democratic lawmakers plan to visit detention facilities in McAllen and Los Fresnos. About a dozen people demonstrated ahead of the delegation's arrival in McAllen wearing white T-shirts that said, "I want my mommy."

Tens of thousands of immigrants traveling with their families have been caught on the southwest border in recent years, many fleeing gang violence in Central America. About 9,000 such family units have been caught in each of the last three months, according to U.S. border authorities.

The Trump administration announced plans in April to prosecute all immigrants caught along the southwest border with illegally entering the country. Parents were jailed and children taken to government-contracted shelters.

Now, the administration says it will continue with prosecutions and seek to detain families together during their immigration proceedings.

Immigration officials have said they could seek up to 15,000 beds in family detention facilities, and the Pentagon is drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 unaccompanied immigrant children on military bases.

Those proposals have also sparked an outcry from women's and children's advocates who say children don't belong in jail.

They want minors to remain protected by a decades-old settlement governing the detention of immigrant children caught on the border. Under the agreement, children must be placed in age-appropriate facilities and released as quickly as possible.

The Trump administration is seeking changes to the settlement in federal court to try to deter more families from making the trip.

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