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 Cruz (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.

{mosads}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 Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Hoeven (N.D.), Mike Lee (Utah), James Inhofe (Okla.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Todd Young (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 Cornyn (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 Flake (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 Feinstein (D-Calif.) that aims to prevent the separation of immigrant families. Republicans say her bill is too broad.

Tags Ben Sasse Dianne Feinstein family separation policy Immigration James Inhofe Jeff Flake Jim Risch John Barrasso John Cornyn John Hoeven Joni Ernst Marco Rubio Mike Crapo Mike Lee Mike Rounds Orrin Hatch Pat Roberts Pat Toomey Roger Wicker Roy Blunt Steve Daines Ted Cruz Tim Scott Todd Young
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