U.S. carriers issued a swift rebuke of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that separates children from their family before the president reversed course and signed an executive order to end the practice that elicited strong bipartisan criticism.
American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) - Get Report and United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) - Get Report both told the federal officials that they should not transport immigrant children who have been forcibly separated from their family on their aircraft.
"The family separation process that has been widely publicized is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines -- we bring families together, not apart," the Fort Worth, Texas-based company said in a statement. "We have therefore requested the federal government to immediately refrain from using American for the purpose of transporting children who have been separated from their families due to the current immigration policy. We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it."
American Airlines and other U.S. carriers have contacts with the government to provide transportation services for a variety of reasons, but the government does not disclose information about the nature of the flights it takes or the passengers who are traveling, American said.
The Chicago-based United echoed that statement in a tweet this afternoon, saying,"Based on our serious concerns about this policy and how it's in deep conflict with our company's values, we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents."
"While we do not have evidence that tickets purchased for Southwest flights have been utilized to transport detained children, we do not wish to have involvement in the process of separating children from their parents," the Dallas-based company said in a statement via email. "Therefore, we appeal to anyone making those types of travel decisions not to utilize Southwest Airlines."
"Recent reports of families being separated are disheartening and do not align with Delta's core values," Delta said in a statement. "We applaud the Administration's Executive Order resolving the issue of separating children from their families at the U.S. border."
Family separation increased in recent weeks due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy for illegal entry at the border. Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border but said the "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting everyone who tries to cross the border illegally would continue.
"It's about keeping families together, while ensuring we have a powerful, very strong border," Trump said.
-- This story has been updated to reflect that the president signed the executive order.