As a backlash grows to the Trump administration’s policy of family separation at the border, President Donald Trump went on Twitter to blame Democrats — again.
“CHANGE THE LAWS!” Trump tweeted in all caps, before expounding on what he meant in a second, typo-ridden tweet.
It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2018
As Trump and his administration take heat from immigration activists and evangelical leaders alike for their policy of separating undocumented families who cross the border, often to seek asylum, the president has been looking for someone else to blame. He often lands on congressional Democrats, whom he blasted on Monday for “being weak and ineffective with Boarder [sic] Security and Crime.”
The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018
The Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts and work something out on Border Security & Safety. Don’t wait until after the election because you are going to lose!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2018
On Monday, Trump said he believed his administration would be able to reach an immigration solution with Congress if Democrats would only agree to negotiate.
“If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something very quickly,” Trump told reporters, adding he’ll say “very strongly” that the current family separation policy is “the Democrats’ fault.”
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. “Not on my watch,” Trump added.
In another recent exchange with a reporter who asked if he agreed with his administration’s policy of separating undocumented children from their parents, Trump insisted it was the result of Democrats’ “law.”
“I hate it. I had the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law,” Trump said.
But there’s just no way to blame this on Democrats. This policy is coming from the Trump administration, not Congress. As Vox’s Dara Lind explained:
“To be clear, there is no official Trump policy stating that every family entering the US without papers has to be separated. What there is is a policy that all adults caught crossing into the US illegally are supposed to be criminally prosecuted — and when that happens to a parent, separation is inevitable.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are in the minority in both the US House and Senate, so they currently don’t have much power to make major public policy. Trump’s insistence that family separation is happening as a result of a Democratic “law” is simply not true.
Nevertheless, Democrats in both chambers have been trying to advance legislation to stop family separation. Every Democratic senator has signed on to the “Keep Families Together Act,” a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) earlier this month with the aim of keeping undocumented families together.
“Congress has a moral obligation to take a stand and say that families should not be forcibly separated,” Feinstein said in a statement. “To traumatize them further is unconscionable, and I hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to put an end to this immoral policy.”
The bill would only allow undocumented children to be separated from their parents if there is evidence of parents abusing the children or children being trafficked. Separation could only happen after consultation with a child welfare expert.
Similar Democratic bills have been introduced in the House; the Help Separated Families Act of 2018 and the HELP Separated Children Act, both introduced by Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, one of the loudest voices on the issue.
Congressional Republicans are feeling the pressure to act
Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to put various forth measures to stop family separation, in both the House and the Senate.
“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters last week. House Republicans address family separation in their newly released “compromise” immigration bill that largely deals with separate immigration issues, including giving young unauthorized immigrants already in the US known as DREAMers a pathway to citizenship.
But as Vox’s Dara Lind pointed out, the House bill isn’t very effective on the issue of family separation.
The Republican bill doesn’t outlaw family separation. It doesn’t stop the Trump administration from choosing to prosecute asylum seekers who enter the US between ports of entry (official border crossings) for illegal entry, which results in parents being sent into criminal custody without their children. And it doesn’t even force the government not to separate parents who do present themselves legally for asylum from their children — something that has also been happening, though isn’t as widespread.
What the House bill does is get rid of the extra legal protections that children and families have in immigration detention: a requirement that children be kept in the “least restrictive” conditions possible, and that they not be detained any longer than necessary. This means that if the family is kept together, their parents must be released with them.
There’s also movement among Senate Republicans on the issue; Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he plans to unveil legislation that would keep families together while undocumented children wait for their status hearing, which Cornyn says should be expedited.
“I think we all can agree that it’s a terrible outcome to see the children separated from their parents,” Cornyn said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.