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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Harrowing images of children in detention centers, the administration's flip flopping on its own family separation policy and two bills struggling to make it through the House have kept the national focus on immigration this week.

The big picture: Trump signed an executive order to end family separation, causing chaos amidst government agencies. He doubled down on his tough immigration message by holding an event with families whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. One House immigration bill failed, another got punted to next week and Melania wore a $39 jacket that said "I don’t really care" on her trip to the border.

1. President Trump's executive order

After consistently blaming Congress for the crisis of children being torn away from their parents, Trump signed an executive order, which:

  • Told Homeland Security to keep families in detention together throughout all criminal and immigration proceedings.
  • Told the Justice Department to ask a federal district judge to modify a 2015 decision in order to allow children to be detained for an indefinite period of time with their parents. DOJ submitted the request the next day.

Why it matters: The judge's decision will be crucial to the administration overcoming legal hurdles that prevent them from detaining family migrants together long term.

2. Agency chaos
  • Homeland Security corrected a statement from the Department of Health and Human Service, which said that children would not be immediately reunited with their parents.
  • The Justice Department corrected reports quoting Homeland Security officials and clarified that there was still a full-fledged "zero-tolerance" policy in place.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has publicly said that “if you are smuggling a child... that child will be separated from you,” claimed this week that he "never really intended" to separate families.

Bottom line: It is still unclear how Homeland Security and HHS are reuniting the 2,300 children who have already been separated with their parents. A senior administration official told AP that 500 children have been successfully reunited, but there have also been reports of parents struggling to locate their kids and being deported while their children remain in the U.S.

3. Failing immigration bills

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's immigration bill failed, and House leadership pushed back a promised vote on a more moderate bill to next week.

What we're hearing: A few details of the compromise bill are still being worked out. Additions are being negotiated, which would ensure the widespread use of E-verify and that there are the needed foreign workers for U.S. agriculture.

Bottom line: This bill is unlikely to pass. Its failure would close another door to allowing Homeland Security to keep migrant families together in detention longer than 20 days. What's in the bill.

4. New housing for child migrants

Meanwhile, tent villages are being constructed on military based to house unaccompanied alien minors and the Pentagon has been asked to house 20,000 immigrant minors from July to the end of the year.

5. The distractions
  1. Melania’s jacket: The First Lady took a trip to the Mexican border to spend time with migrant children in detention there, but it was her army green jacket with the words “I don’t really care, do u?” printed on the back that made headlines.
  2. Photo correction: The little girl crying in a viral photo which became a symbol for opposition to Trump's immigration policies was never separated from her mother. This revelation became fodder for media critics.
  3. Counter programming: Trump held an event featuring the families of children who had been killed by undocumented immigrants on Friday, comparing their tragic, "permanent separation" from their children to the separation his own administration had been enforcing at the border.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.