Freedom Caucus chair unveils bill to end Trump family separation policy

Freedom Caucus chair unveils bill to end Trump family separation policy
© Greg Nash

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFreedom Caucus lawmakers call on DOJ to probe Rosenstein allegations House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus MORE (R-N.C.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would end the separation of immigrant families at the border as the White House scrambles to contain the fallout from the controversial policy.

The bill from Meadows, one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE’s top allies in Congress and a conservative ringleader, would allow children to be detained with their parents.

The measure would also make it more difficult to seek asylum in the United States — a top priority for conservatives that could stop Democrats from backing the measure.

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“We need to better enforce our immigration laws, but we can do so while keeping parents and children together. I believe my bill will help do that,” said Meadows, who visited the White House earlier on Monday. 

The Trump administration has faced intense outrage from both Democrats and Republicans for its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has forced immigrant children to be separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump has shown no signs of backing down on the policy, however, and has tried to shift the blame on Democrats. 

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been pleading with the president to end the policy, which has become a flashpoint in the already divisive immigration debate.

Trump is scheduled on Tuesday to huddle with congressional Republicans at the Capitol to build consensus on immigration issues.

The House is supposed to vote on a broad immigration bill protecting so-called Dreamers on Thursday that also contains language to end family separations, but that legislation is expected to fail.

At that point, Congress will be under immense pressure to pass a standalone measure providing a fix for family separations. A number of lawmakers in both parties have introduced  — or are planning — bills on the subject, including Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (D-Calif.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Russia raises problems for GOP candidates Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (R-Texas) and John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (R-Texas.).

The measure from Meadows, however, would provide a more conservative solution to the issue. Not only would it raise asylum thresholds in an attempt to crack down an “asylum fraud,” but the bill also would treat unaccompanied minors from Mexico the same as minors from other countries that don’t border the U.S., among other things.

“U.S. border officials need better tools to control the system, keep out violent criminals, and identify those who may be seeking to illegitimately take advantage of our asylum laws,” Meadows said. “By cutting down on asylum fraud, we can keep families together without running a greater risk of traffickers or violent criminals using children to take advantage of the rules.”