Freedom Caucus chair unveils bill to end Trump family separation policy
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would end the separation of immigrant families at the border as the White House scrambles to contain the fallout from the controversial policy.
The bill from Meadows, one of President Trump’s top allies in Congress and a conservative ringleader, would allow children to be detained with their parents.
The measure would also make it more difficult to seek asylum in the United States — a top priority for conservatives that could stop Democrats from backing the measure.
“We need to better enforce our immigration laws, but we can do so while keeping parents and children together. I believe my bill will help do that,” said Meadows, who visited the White House earlier on Monday.
The Trump administration has faced intense outrage from both Democrats and Republicans for its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has forced immigrant children to be separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been pleading with the president to end the policy, which has become a flashpoint in the already divisive immigration debate.
Trump is scheduled on Tuesday to huddle with congressional Republicans at the Capitol to build consensus on immigration issues.
The House is supposed to vote on a broad immigration bill protecting so-called Dreamers on Thursday that also contains language to end family separations, but that legislation is expected to fail.
At that point, Congress will be under immense pressure to pass a standalone measure providing a fix for family separations. A number of lawmakers in both parties have introduced — or are planning — bills on the subject, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas.).
The measure from Meadows, however, would provide a more conservative solution to the issue. Not only would it raise asylum thresholds in an attempt to crack down an “asylum fraud,” but the bill also would treat unaccompanied minors from Mexico the same as minors from other countries that don’t border the U.S., among other things.
“U.S. border officials need better tools to control the system, keep out violent criminals, and identify those who may be seeking to illegitimately take advantage of our asylum laws,” Meadows said. “By cutting down on asylum fraud, we can keep families together without running a greater risk of traffickers or violent criminals using children to take advantage of the rules.”