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The Trump administration will no longer criminally prosecute migrant parents who cross the US-Mexico border illegally with their children, a senior US official told the Washington Post on Thursday.

The Department of Health and Human Services said there are 12,000 children in custody after entering at the border.

Shortly before she spoke, a VOA reporter at an immigration court hearing in Brownsville, Texas said prosecutors dropped misdemeanor charges against 17 migrants.

The fight - initially centered on helping young "Dreamer" immigrants stay in the country - has been swamped by heart-rending images of children in wire enclosures after being separated from their families at the border. However, the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossings has caused an increased number of these separations.

Video footage of children sitting in cages and an audiotape of wailing children had sparked anger as the images were broadcast worldwide.

"It's the Democrats fault, they won't give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation", Trump tweeted June 20.

Passage of the bill was always a long shot but failure may now come at a steeper price as Republicans - and Mr Trump - have raised expectations that, as the party in control of Congress and the White House, they can fix the nation's long-standing immigration problems.

Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday, and those on the fence over pending immigration legislation headed to the White House to meet with Trump.

Townsend said it's not expected that Mr. Trump will change his policy.

"Ivanka feels very strongly, my wife feels very strongly about it, I feel very strongly about it".

Wednesday's move was the most significant policy reversal by Trump since he took office in January 2017.

GOP aims at stopping family separation with immigration votes Thursday
First lady Melania Trump encouraged Trump to act on his own if Congress wasn't able to, a White House official said. The executive order directs the attorney general to promptly file a request with U.S.

"They really would like to have open borders where they can just flow in", Mr. Trump said of congressional Democrats.

The policy had led to a spike in family separations in recent weeks, with more than 2,300 minors separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to Homeland Security.

Trump's family apparently played a role in his turnaround.

A federal appeals court has interpreted the Flores agreement to allow immigration officials to detain families for only 20 days.

The most urgent question is what will happen to thousands of children already separated from their parents under the administration's "zero tolerance" border enforcement strategy.

The Associated Press reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also asking a federal judge in the Central District of California to waive that rule.

After a downturn previous year, since October, the number of migrants seeking to cross the southwest United States border from impoverished Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as from Mexico, has surged.

When the crisis of family separations erupted at the border, GOP leaders revised the bill to bolster a provision requiring parents and children to be held together in custody.

Then he signed an executive order to end the policy. Children don't belong in jail at all, even with their parents, under any set of circumstances. "It's been heartbreaking to watch what's going on", said Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration reform group America's Voice.

Asked what he'd do if both votes fail, Ryan said he would "cross that bridge if we get to it" before emphasizing that his goal was not to pass legislation, but rather to prevent the discharge petition from dictating which legislation the House would consider.