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 CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Senate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Senate passes Armenian genocide resolution 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 BarrassoLife after Yucca Mountain: The time has come to reset US nuclear waste policy Trump announces restart to Taliban peace talks in surprise Afghanistan visit Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst on trade deal Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (Mo.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Lawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank MORE (Idaho), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesBullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Perry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine MORE (Mont.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Iowa), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (Utah), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms MORE (N.D.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE (Utah), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeLankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Gabbard calls for congressional inquiry over Afghanistan war report MORE (Okla.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Legislation to protect electric grid from cyberattacks added to massive defense bill Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (Idaho), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsLankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Intel panel readies to hand off impeachment baton The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' MORE (Kan.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsSenate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars MORE (S.D.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (Fla.), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill FCC votes to bar use of its funds to purchase Huawei, ZTE equipment MORE (Neb.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump to sign order penalizing colleges over perceived anti-Semitism on campus: report Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements MORE (S.C.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (Pa.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerLet's enact a privacy law that advances economic justice There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield MORE (Miss.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Statesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump says he is fighting testimony to protect presidency MORE (Ind.).

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 CornynTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA 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 FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 FeinsteinSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE (D-Calif.) that aims to prevent the separation of immigrant families. Republicans say her bill is too broad.