Associated Press

GOP Meeting on Immigration

Outrage Growing Over Family Separations

June 19, 2018 - 9:50 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.

Trump's meeting late Tuesday afternoon with House Republicans comes as lawmakers in both parties are up in arms over the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal border crossings.

Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the previous administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

The fight is erupting as the House is already embroiled in an election-year struggle over immigration legislation that threatens to hurt Republicans in November.

Democrats have seized on the family separation issue, swarming detention centers in Texas to highlight the policy. They are demanding that the administration act to keep migrant families together. Republicans are increasingly joining Democrats in that call.

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton called for an immediate end to the "ugly and inhumane practice," adding, "It's never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in political process." Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts said he is "against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration."

"The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement.

The Trump administration insists the family separations are required under the law. But after signaling Monday that it would oppose any fix aimed solely at addressing the plight of children separated from their parents under the crackdown, the White House said Tuesday that it is reviewing emergency legislation being introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to keep migrant families together.

Asked if the White House supports the Cruz measure, Mercedes Schlapp, director of strategic communications, told reporters "we're looking into the legislative text on the Cruz bill."

The senator's bill would add more federal immigration judges, authorize new temporary shelters to house migrant families, speed the processing of asylum cases and require that families that cross the border illegally be kept together, absent criminal conduct or threats to the welfare of any children.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved