Congressional Republicans scrambled on Tuesday to craft legislation that would quell an outcry over the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border, with an opinion poll showing most Americans oppose the policy.
The family separations and detentions of children, highlighted by videos of youngsters in cages and an audiotape of wailing children, have sparked anger at home from groups ranging from clergy to influential business leaders, as well as condemnation abroad.
President Donald Trump arrived at Capitol Hill for a Tuesday evening meeting with House of Representatives Republicans to discuss their immigration legislation. He is focused on winning congressional funding for a wall he has long wanted to build along America’s southern border with Mexico, a plan resisted by Democrats.
Trump, who has made a tough stance on immigration a centerpiece of his presidency, has staunchly defended his administration’s actions. He has cast blame for the family separations on Democrats, although his fellow Republicans control both chambers in Congress and his own administration implemented the current policy of strict adherence to immigration laws.
On Tuesday, the president tried again to blame Democrats for what he called “loopholes” in the law that require families detained for entering the country illegally either to be separated or released.
“These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation, which we don’t want,” he said in remarks to the National Federation of Independent Business, adding he wanted Congress to give him the legal authority to detain and deport families together.
Trump has sought to link an end to the family separations to passage of a wider bill on immigration, prompting Democrats to accuse him of using children as hostages.
House Republicans were working on a revised draft of one version of an immigration overhaul that would prevent family separations in some cases for those attempting an illegal border crossing for the first time, according to a House Republican aide.
The draft bill was seen just days ago as unlikely to pass, but has gained support in the House. But it was widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, where minority Democrats could use procedural tactics to block it and where competing but far narrower legislation may be emerging from top Republicans.
‘CONTRARY TO AMERICAN VALUES’
Two of the top U.S. business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, decried the separation policy on Tuesday and called for its immediate cessation.
“This practice is cruel and contrary to American values,” Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) Chief Executive Chuck Robbins, who chairs the group’s immigration committee, said in a statement.
Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents between mid-April and the end of May. The separations have been blasted by Democrats, some Republicans, medical professionals and rights activists.