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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said his department will start reuniting detained immigrant children with their parents - but he made no specific commitment on how quickly that can be accomplished. Many professionals are anxious about what is happening to the more than 2,300 youngsters who have been separated from their parents by the Trump administration.

Trump's decision to reverse course comes despite the fact that administration officials have insisted for days that only Congress could fix the problem.

Carey spoke to CBS News about how the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy will affect America's reputation.

In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018.

Meanwhile, Democrats spent Wednesday morning calling on Trump and congressional Republicans to end the policy in speeches on the House floor.

Medical providers who have visited the facilities say they are safe and clean, but the children are often crying and acting out.

While Mr Trump held firm to his tough immigration stance in an earlier appearance on Tuesday, he acknowledged during the closed-door meeting that the coverage of family separations is taking a toll. Expanded facilities could be key, as migrant children separated from their parents are now housed by a different department, Health and Human Services. Trump said the "zero tolerance" policy would continue but said his executive order is "about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful, very strong border". Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

"Right now we're focused on getting this bill passed", he said.

Democrats have gone all-in to draw attention to the family separations. Melania Trump has had several private conversations with her husband, pushing him to do all he can to keep families at the border intact, whether via a legislative route, or acting alone to stop the process, the official said.

"The Republican leadership has been working on these other bills for a while".

Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment for illegal immigrant children in Tornillo Texas near El Paso
Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment for illegal immigrant children in Tornillo Texas near El Paso

The order also provides that the Department of Homeland Security won't detain an immigrant family together "when there is a concern that detention of an alien child with the child's alien parent would pose a risk to the child's welfare".

He says the compromise bill negotiated between Republican conservatives and moderates "is Plan B". The official did not know what prompted Trump to change course.

A federal judge in San Diego this month allowed the suit to go forward, writing that the separation "arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child" and appears to violate a "constitutional right to family integrity".

"Neither party should want to separate kids from their parents", California Rep. Jeff Denham, another endangered Republican, said on CNN hours later.

A 2015 court order now prevents the federal government from detaining children with their parents in detention centers for more than 20 days.

Striking down the ruling became a goal of immigration hard-liners, particularly after a 2016 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals limiting the government's ability to keep children in detention for more than 20 days. Blame is also placed on the parents for putting their children in this position by illegally crossing borders with them.

Even if Republicans manage to pass an immigration bill through the House, which is a tall order, the fight is all but certain to fizzle in the Senate. This has sparked anger over the appearance that his administration is effectively holding children hostage for political concessions.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, pleaded with Republicans on the panel to end what he called "internment camps".

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday morning that the House will vote on immigration legislation, despite signs that the bills up for consideration can not pass.

Justice Department lawyers have been working to find a legal workaround for a class-action lawsuit settlement that set policies for the treatment and release of unaccompanied children who are caught at the border, or crafting an order that would defy the settlement and force it back into court to argue for changes.

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Trump's Republican party holds a majority in both houses of Congress but itself is divided on immigration policies. Some Republicans have split with the administration on the issue.