House GOP changes immigration bill to prevent DHS from separating families
House Republicans are changing their compromise immigration bill to prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from separating migrant children from their families in response to a growing political storm.
The new bill would require DHS to keep families together while parents are going through legal proceedings related to their detention for illegally crossing the border, according to a House GOP source familiar with the new bill, which is still being drafted.
“This bill requires DHS to house families together while parents are going through criminal proceedings for the misdemeanor of first-time illegal border crossing,” the source said.
“This is a change from current practice which requires [Department of Justice] DOJ criminal custody during criminal proceedings, and thus leads to family separation,” the source added.
It’s unclear whether the new bill will be approved by the House, however, and it seems unlikely to get through the Senate where Republicans would need help from Democrats.
Democrats are opposed to the underlying legislation, which would also make changes to legal programs to curb immigration. The bill also includes provisions on border security, money for a wall on the border and language that would allow “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country.
President Trump is slated to come to Capitol Hill to discuss immigration with House Republicans Tuesday evening. House GOP leadership hopes to hold floor votes on both the compromise bill and a harder-line measure backed by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) before the end of the week.
Both the Goodlatte bill and the compromise GOP bill addressed family separations, but critics say the solutions proposed in them would create a situation where entire families are detained, in some cases without the proper safeguards for detained minors.
Trump has blamed family separations on Democrats, making the false claim that his “zero tolerance” policy on the border is necessitated by a law approved by Congress.
Previous administrations have declined to separate families, choosing instead to keep families together as they go through processing.
The changes to the legislation come following bipartisan backlash over the zero tolerance policy, which has left about 2,000 children separated from their guardians over the course of six weeks.
The legislation also revives the 20-day cap on DHS administrative custody for minors — allowing families to remain together throughout the course of proceedings. Children of offenders and felons will, however, be placed in custody of the Department of Health and Human Services under the legislation.
It would allocate $7 billion toward family residential centers. Current facilities have come under heavy scrutiny after photos emerges of children being kept in wire cages.
“The legislation is still being finalized and the updated version is expected to be circulated later today and discussed at the conference meeting this evening,” according to the source.