Previously, families were held together, released, or deported back across the border. A 1997 settlement agreement says kids can’t be held in detention for more than 20 days, and in the past, the Department of Homeland Security would release some of these kids with their mothers. Now, if the parents are caught entering the country illegally, they are sent to detention centers under US Marshal custody and the children are shipped to detention centers for unaccompanied children — generally, the same one where children were held in 2014. They are now considered unaccompanied minors by the federal government.
As of Friday, according to DHS, the Trump administration has separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in the time since the policy was announced to the end of May.
President Trump has tried to say this policy is due to a law currently on the books, passed under Democrats, a claim he repeated Friday morning. But the assertion is false; no law requires the separation of children from their parents. On Thursday, Sessions attempted to use the Bible to explain why the separations were necessary.