Senate panel spars with Trump administration over treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children
Schumer rejects GOP proposal to address border crisis
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Tuesday dismissed a legislative proposal backed by Republican leaders to keep immigrant families together at the border, arguing that President Trump could fix the problem more easily with a flick of his pen.
"There are so many obstacles to legislation and when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense," Schumer told reporters. "Legislation is not the way to go here when it's so easy for the president to sign it."
Asked if that meant Democrats would not support a bill backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to keep immigrant families together while seeking asylum on the U.S. border, Schumer said they want to keep the focus on Trump.
"Again, the president can change it with his pen," he said, warning that Republicans would likely try to add poison-pill provisions to any immigration bill that came to the floor.
"Unacceptable additions have bogged down every piece of legislation we've done," he said.
Schumer's opposition to a legislative fix means there likely won't be a quick end to the emotional images of immigrant children being separated from their families unless Trump backs down and reverses his "zero tolerance" policy.
Democrats want to keep the pressure on Trump instead of having Congress assume responsibility for the growing crisis.
Schumer's position immediately raised speculation over how long Democrats would stick to their position if Trump refuses to change his mind.
"Let's hope we never get to that. Let's hope the president does the right thing and solves the problem, which he can do. That's the simple, easiest and most likely way this will happen," Schumer said.
Trump claims the burden is on Congress to keep immigrant children from being separated from their parents after 20 days if they are detained by law enforcement.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday told reporters "Congress alone can fix it."
McConnell on Tuesday sided with the administration and called for legislation.
"I support, and all of the senators of the Republican conference support, a plan that keeps families together," McConnell told reporters.
"We need to fix the problem and it requires a legislative solution," he added.
The GOP leadership supports a bill that would require that immigrant families be kept together in a humane setting while waiting for an immigration judge. Furthermore, it would expedite their hearings to minimize their time in detention.