Political News

GOP senators introduce legislation to stop family separation

Posted June 20, 2018 3:02 p.m. EDT

— GOP Sen. Thom Tillis announced legislation from a group of Republican senators that would stop the separation of immigrant children from their parents, according to a statement from his office that came right as Trump signed an executive order reversing the practice.

The bill would allow undocumented immigrant families to stay together during their legal proceedings, which come from a policy to refer all people who cross the border illegally for criminal prosecution on top of immigration proceedings. As a result of enforcing that policy, families who cross illegally have been separated from their children because those accompanying the children are put into the criminal justice system.

Trump is still calling on Congress to pass immigration legislation. White House officials -- including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- were lobbying Wednesday for a bill in the House that is broader in scope than Tillis' Senate plan narrowly tailored to halt family separation.

Besides changing that practice, the Senate's "Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act" would authorize 225 new immigration judges to be able to process asylum requests.

The group of Republican senators supporting the bill includes Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn of Texas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Dean Heller of Nevada. Several other senators signed on as cosponsors of the legislation.

"Migrant children should not be separated from their families, and both sides of the aisle can agree that we must quickly and permanently address this problem. Our legislation provides the solution by clarifying federal law to ensure that families will remain together and receive good care as they go through the legal process," Tillis, of North Carolina, said in the statement. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming days and codifying this fair and commonsense solution into law."

Trump on Wednesday reversed his argument that he had no authority to stop separations of undocumented immigrant families at the border by signing an executive order that would stop his practice of family separation.

Trump's climbdown came after he faced intense pressure from across the political spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders to halt the separations, which produced days of heartrending news coverage of crying children -- some of whom were kept in cage-like detention centers.