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Ryan opposes separating immigrant children from their parents

Ryan opposes separating immigrant children from their parents
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only Cheney at donor retreat says Trump's actions 'a line that cannot be crossed': report MORE said Thursday he opposes undocumented migrant children being separated from their parents at the border and urged Congress to fix the problem through legislation.

The Wisconsin Republican told reporters at his weekly news conference he is not comfortable with the growing number of minors who are being split from their undocumented parents and sent to detention centers or foster care.

The Speaker’s remarks follow Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors Biden fills immigration court with Trump hires Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE’s new “zero tolerance” policy dealing with undocumented families crossing the southern border.

But Ryan blamed the courts for the separation of immigrant families.

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“This is because of a court ruling,” Ryan said. “We believe it should be addressed in immigration legislation. So what’s happening at the border with the separation of their parents and their children is because of a court ruling, and so that’s why I think legislation is necessary.”

At her own news conference moments later, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' McCarthy says he supports Stefanik for House GOP conference chair Ode to Mother's Day MORE (D-Calif.) said she hasn't discussed with Ryan any legislation to end the separations. But she railed against the practice.

"This is barbaric. This is not what America is. But this is the policy of the Trump administration. ... It has to stop," she said.

"What is it,” she asked, “that they don't get about how stupid, and wrong and immoral [the separations are?]"

A new draft proposal of GOP immigration legislation includes language that calls for immigrant minors apprehended at the border not be separated from their parent or guardian. Such legislation could come to the House floor next week.

But that proposal will likely be rejected by immigrant advocates, as it calls for "clarification" of the Flores settlement, a 1997 ruling that establishes minimum standards for detention of minors.

Without the Flores settlement, advocates fear, families could be detained in the same facilities, without special care infrastructure for minors.

The White House has called for an end to the Flores settlement, as well as other laws and rulings that prevent indefinite detention of immigrants.

Ryan’s comments come two days after the Speaker announced the House will vote next week on two bills to bolster border security and protect the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

Ryan’s strategy was successful in scuttling a revolt by GOP centrists hoping to force votes on four immigration bills this month. But it’s unclear if either of the two Dreamer bills can win enough support to pass the lower chamber, let alone the Senate.

The first bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, lacks the 218 votes to pass the House. And the second proposal, a more moderate compromise between GOP centrists and conservatives, is still being drafted, and there’s no guarantee it will win 218 votes, either. 

Virtually every Democrat is expected to oppose both measures over tougher border security and interior enforcement.

Ryan may be tempted to add the child-separation provisions to the evolving compromise as a political move to jam the Democrats who are lining up in opposition to the larger package. 

"I don't see any prospect for legislation," Pelosi said.

Rafael Bernal contributed.