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13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families

More than a dozen Republican senators are asking the Trump administration to halt the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border while Congress works out legislation.

GOP senators, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for a moratorium of the president's controversial "zero tolerance" policy, which is resulting in the separation of families detained at the border.

"We support the administration's efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents," the Republican senators wrote.

"We therefore ask you to halt implementation of the Department's zero tolerance policy while Congress works out a solution that enables faster processing of individuals who enter our country illegally without requiring the forced, inhumane separation of children from their parents," the senators continued.

In addition to Hatch, GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Boozman (Ark.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), James Lankford (Okla.), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) signed on to the letter to Sessions.

Trump's immigrant policies have fueled days of media coverage and sparked high-profile backlash from Republicans on and off Capitol Hill.

The senators added in their letter Tuesday that they've "read with increasing alarm" media reports of immigrant children being separated from their parents.

"Although enforcing our immigration laws is an essential responsibility of the federal government, it must be done in a way that is consistent with our values and ordinary human decency," the GOP senators added.

Sessions announced the "zero tolerance" policy in April as part of a move to prosecute adults who illegally cross the border to the fullest extent of the law. As a result, children are separated from their parents and detained as the adults are prosecuted.

Trump and administration officials have tried to shift the blame to Democrats, arguing that their hands are essentially tied.

But GOP senators rejected that in their letter, saying while the current "crisis has multiple contributing causes ... the immediate cause of the crisis is your Department's recent institution of a 'zero tolerance' policy."

Senators are scrambling to come up with legislation that would deal narrowly with families detained at the border instead of a broader immigration bill like the proposals being debated by the House.

But there is no sign yet of a bill that can get 60 votes in the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is expected to introduce his own bill and a working group of GOP senators, led by Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), are aiming to introduce legislation this week.

Meanwhile, Democrats have coalesced behind legislation from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that Republicans believe is too broad and would result in immigrants who tried to enter the country illegally being released.

"Right now there is a full-on Democrat bill, that they've already put out. We'll have some Republican response to it. And then we've got to be able to work together to get an actual final bill that could actually pass," Lankford separately told reporters after a closed-door policy lunch.

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