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Officials highlighted the number during a conference call on Tuesday to announce the latest data on unauthorized migrants crossing the southern border.

During the Obama administration and before Trump's zero-tolerance policy was introduced, migrant families caught illegally entering the USA were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation, unless they were known to have a criminal record.

It comes as numbers of migrants stopped at the US-Mexico border have surged to the highest level in over a decade. The photos showed children being held temporarily at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz.

"Who the hell can live like this?" he asked, according to The Dallas Morning News. When immigrants travel in caravans to reach the United States and seek asylum - a safer method compared to relying on smugglers - Trump whips up fear about the caravans and declares them an invading force.

Under Obama and President George W. Bush, the US border officials separated families in rare circumstances when the child's safety might be at risk.

There was no immediate reaction from the Department of Homeland Security or Trump on the ruling, which can be appealed. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, pointed to his remarks at a hearing last week, when he said securing the border "will take cooperation and credibility from this administration and not chaos and confusion". But will we handle more?

Regarding the changes, Trump said he wants to take immigration enforcement in a "tougher direction".

On Sunday, Trumpforced outHomeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen - a move that is reportedly part of a broader Homeland Security "purge" that will place more power in the hands of thepresident's xenophobic adviser Stephen Miller.

Karisch told the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that in 2014, before the influx from Central America began to intensify, less than 1 percent of the men apprehended after crossing the border illegally came with a child.

The White House reportedly wants to force immigrants to pass a more hard credible fear test when seeking asylum so less people make it across the border. In contrast, just 74,464 Mexicans were apprehended in the first half of fiscal 2019. That was the most in March since 2007, according to CBP documents. The responsibility to care for those migrants while they are processed and screened has forced a massive redirection of Border Patrol agents and resources away from their usual responsibilities for border security. In mid-March, The Washington Post reported that as many as 240 migrants seeking asylum had been sent back to Mexico since the since the policy was unveiled in January.

Trump repeatedly but without specifics rails against a "Democrat" law that he wrongly claims to have changed.

"Make no mistake about it, the word is getting out", Karisch said. Some asylum-seekers have been given court notices that have one date but instructions to appear at the port of entry on a different date.

"I hope members of the administration are actually listening", said Sen.

"I can not overstate the importance of these operations", Howe said. He said this "humanitarian" crisis is being ignored, but his own rhetoric and actions have actually served to exacerbate the problems. "Suspending services negatively impacts the trade community and the supply chain". What we're doing here is certainly a challenge.