Senate Democrats Reject GOP Bill To Stop Family Separations At U.S. Border
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) dismissed a legislative proposal backed by Republican leaders to keep immigrant families together at the border. Schumer says that President Trump could fix the problem more easily by signing an Executive Order.
When reporters asked if Democrats would not support a bill backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to keep immigrant families together while seeking asylum on the U.S. border, Schumer said they want to keep the focus on Trump.
“There are so many obstacles to legislation and when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense,” Schumer told reporters. “Legislation is not the way to go here when it’s so easy for the president to sign it.”
Senator Schumer’s opposition to passing a new law likely means that emotional portrayals of immigrant children being separated from their families will continue in the media unless Trump backs down.
Democrats want to keep the pressure on Trump instead of having Congress assume responsibility for the growing crisis.
President Trump and his advisers say it is up to Congress to change a law that separates incoming children who are not citizens from being separated from their parents if they are detained by law enforcement.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that, “Congress alone can fix it.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sided with the Trump administration and says Congress should approve the bill.
“I support, and all of the senators of the Republican conference support, a plan that keeps families together,” McConnell told reporters. “We need to fix the problem and it requires a legislative solution,” he added.
The GOP leadership supports a bill that would require that immigrant families be kept together in a humane setting while waiting for an immigration judge. It would also speed up when their hearings are held to cut down on the amount of time that they are separated.
One of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate Chamber, U.S. Senator Susan Collins has voiced clear opposition to the Trump administration policy, but she says that she cannot support the Democrats' bill which she says could allow serious criminals and even terrorists to come into the U.S. unchallenged by law enforcement.
In a Sunday interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Collins said the Democratic proposal was overly broad and “would essentially prevent arrest within 100 miles of the border, even if the person has committed a serious crime or is suspected of terrorist activities.”
Collins said the better path would be try again to pass the bipartisan immigration bill that failed to move forward after a procedural vote in February.
Several policy experts and political commentators have pushed back against the media narrative that appears to allege that all incoming children are being torn away from parents or direct family members, noting that in most cases, children are being smuggled across the U.S. border for human trafficking or to extort money from their families.
James Carafano, a top expert on foreign policy and national defense at The Heritage Foundation, says that allowing children to cross the U.S. border with whomever is bringing them without intervening is itself "child endangerment".
In 2000, and 2008, Congress passed laws intended to curb the trafficking of foreign children into the United States. The 2008 law, titled "William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008" amends the 2000 which created policies for U.S. law enforcement to detain children safely. The 2002 "Homeland Security Act" also addresses how U.S. government agencies are to handle unaccompanied minors.
The laws followed the so-called "Flores Settlement", which was made in 1997, which created policies on the detaining of unaccompanied, non-citizen children entering the U.S. The Flores Settlement and the two Congressional Acts did not address the issue of accompanied non-citizen minors entering the U.S., which means that there is no clear law in place on the issue. A Federal Appeals Court judge reinforced this in a decision regarding the Flores Settlement last July in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Senator Schumer pressured President Trump to enact a clear policy through an Executive Order, but the Trump Administration says that Congress must pass a law for him to sign.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the President broad executive and enforcement authority to use (to) their discretion to determine how to enforce the law. Constitutional experts have argued in recent years that a sitting President cannot use an Executive Order to create a law to bypass Congress, but rather issue them only to enforce existing law.
The Department of Homeland Security has also reportedly drafted a possible Executive Order for President Trump by Wednesday morning, but it is not yet clear if he will issue the order.
In the case of minor, non-citizen children who are entering the U.S. with an adult, there is no set law in place to direct authorities on what to do with them. The administration says that it is currently sticking with policies set in the 2002 and 2008 laws, and that Congress must pass a new law regulating incoming children who are traveling with adults.
With many children entering with adults and no identification, the justification from those supporting the Trump policy say that separating the children is the safest option for those children.
Others have noted that the current media coverage of this immigration issue not only distorts facts for emotion, but is being used to push an agenda for Democrats.