GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border

GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border
© Greg Nash

GOP senators on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at preventing the separation of immigrant families detained along the U.S.-Mexico border while seeking asylum.

The bill, spearheaded by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke mulling another Senate run as well as presidential bid Texas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes Trump working on labels for 2020 Dems: report MORE (R-Texas), would require that the children are kept with their family members unless a child welfare official determines it is in the best interest of the child to be separated, or if the child is believed to be a victim of human trafficking, neglect or abuse.

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The measure also would provide an "expedited process" to require that immigrants with children have their asylum claims processed within 14 days; double the number of federal immigration judges from roughly 375 to 750; and authorize new family shelters for children and their parents while their asylum claims are being processed.

"Over the past few weeks, Americans have been rightly horrified by the images and videos coming from our southern border, where tearful children are being pulled away from their mothers and fathers," Cruz said in a statement. "I hope that my Democratic colleagues can join with us to stop the crisis that is occurring at the border."

In addition to Cruz, the legislation is supported by GOP Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species MORE (Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy Dean Blunt‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (Mo.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoPrivate insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips 'stingy' Democrats, but says shutdown would be 'terrible' | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press officials on 2020 election security | T-Mobile, Sprint execs defend merger before Congress | Officials charge alleged Iranian spy | Senate panel kicks off talks on data security bill MORE (Idaho), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesLand conservation tax incentives should inspire charitable giving, not loopholes Montana governor visiting Iowa amid talk of possible 2020 bid Will Senate GOP try to pass a budget this year? 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The bill introduction comes as lawmakers scramble to respond to the growing political backlash over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that has led to immigrant families being separated along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynO'Rourke mulling another Senate run as well as presidential bid Texas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said earlier Tuesday that a group of senators is working to craft legislation that would merge several ideas being debated by Republicans, including Cruz's bill, into a measure that could win over GOP senators.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters that a group is working to try to hash out a bill that could win support from Republicans and Democrats, whose votes will be necessary if a measure is going to get through the Senate.

Flake noted that while Cruz's bill "has a lot of good things in it," he expected Democrats wouldn't be able to support some of the provisions.

"My preference, and the preference of a number of us there, is to not just have a side-by-side and have a bill that we can vote against because we have our own, but we actually sit down and draft a bill that can pass," he said. "So that's what some of us are trying to do."

So far, there are no signs of a bill that could get the 60 votes needed to clear the chamber.

Democrats on Tuesday downplayed the need for legislation, arguing Trump could change the policy on his own. But that hasn't stopped them from lining up behind a measure from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE (D-Calif.) that aims to prevent the separation of immigrant families. Republicans say her bill is too broad.