Senate negotiators aiming to craft border bill over July 4 recess

Senate negotiators aiming to craft border bill over July 4 recess
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A bipartisan group of senators taking the lead on immigration negotiations said they will request a briefing from Trump administration officials on the border crisis and then try to come up with compromise language over the July 4 recess.

Republican Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz takes aim at Alabama vasectomy bill: 'Yikes' 'Medicare for All' will turn into health care for none Cruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting MORE (Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Trump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday MORE (N.C.) met Monday evening with Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHouse passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber MORE (Calif.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump commutes sentence of ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders surge triggers Dem angst MORE (Ill.) to lay the groundwork for legislation.

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“We’d like to get a briefing that outlines the process [so] that everybody knows what it is and that’s correct, because my sense is no one knows,” Feinstein said, referring to confusion on Capitol Hill about what the administration’s process is for handling families and other migrants who cross the border illegally.

The administration has been criticized for a lack of transparency, with some lawmakers being denied entry to detention facilities where immigrant families are held.

There are also questions about how many children have been separated from their families, how many are in shelters or detention facilities and how many are in foster care, for example.

Uncertainty about which federal departments are in charge of various responsibilities is adding to the confusion.

Last week the Washington Post reported that a senior Customs and Border Protection official said the agency would stop referring immigrant parents to the Justice Department for prosecution. That was followed shortly by Justice Department officials insisting that the “zero tolerance policy” remained in effect.

“Hopefully the administration will put somebody in charge of this program who is senior and informed and knowledgeable and effective,” Feinstein said.

Crafting a legislative solution to the border crisis is made more difficult by the complicated logistics of the situation and the overlapping jurisdictions of several federal agencies.

“That’s going to be the objective, to bring the relevant federal agencies together to meet with the four of us,” Cruz said.

All four negotiators are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“You’ve got multiple federal agencies that are working together in confronting different aspects of the challenge,” Cruz added. “We had a positive and productive meeting. I’m hopeful that together we can come together and find common ground.”

He said the goal is to keep families together while also “enforcing the law.”

Tillis said the group of Senate negotiators hope to meet again this week and come up with draft language over the July 4 recess.

“We’ll probably try to meet again this week on the briefing and then use the recess as an opportunity to see if we can get some common ground on language,” Tillis said.

One possible compromise is to require people who are caught crossing he border illegally to wear monitoring devices around their ankles to ensure they show up for court dates.

That could alleviate federal officials of the need to detain immigrants for longer periods and then be faced with having to remove children in order to comply with a court settlement stipulating that minors cannot be held for more than 20 days.

“It’s part of the discussion,” Tillis said of that idea.

But Cruz argued that detention is an important law enforcement tool that should remain in the mix.

“Allowing ankle monitors is an option that the administration should be able to consider and use in appropriate circumstances, but I don’t think it would be a good outcome to mandate that as the only tool that can be used,” he said. “Detention and prosecution remain important tools for those that violate immigration laws."