A growing number of Republicans have been stepping forward to criticize the Trump administration’s policy separating and detaining children who are traveling with adults who cross the border illegally, adding pressure to an already contentious debate.
As RedState has covered in detail, the Obama-era “catch-and-release” policy that released immigrants claiming asylum with little more than a piece of paper with a future court date was a massive failure, resulting in countless immigrants disappearing into the country. Some of those people likely may have had valid asylum claims but the system incentivized noncompliance, with less risk of deportation for those who simply never appeared for their court dates. And some of those people undoubtedly had far less benevolent goals in mind.
Still, the Trump administration’s policy to criminally prosecute all adults who are detained crossing the border illegally has resulted in significant practical challenges for those adults who bring children with them. The heartrending optics of photos of crying children and news stories describing how government officials have lied to these parents about where their children are being taken and when and how they might be reunited with them, are helping the Democrats and the media build a narrative of a cruel Republican immigration policy, and members of Trump’s own party have been raising their voices in increasing numbers in response.
Political cynics may chalk some of this up to the looming midterm elections, but the specific details many of these Republicans are mentioning are consistent with their past positions on immigration.
Furthermore, Democrats counting on photos of crying children launching a “blue wave” at the ballot boxes this fall are overlooking the real and valid concerns many Americans had regarding Obama’s lenient immigration policies. Donald Trump was elected president in no small part because he spoke to frustrations American voters had about immigration and poor border security. If the White House and Congress can take action relatively soon to continue serious border security enforcement but in a way that better addresses the issue of these children, the Democrats will find the blade of this attack to be substantially blunted.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) was among the Congressional critics of the policy, laying out a nine-point plan in a Facebook post this morning that acknowledged the root of the problem was catch-and-release and other past policies that incentivized illegal immigration and using children as bargaining chips. Catch-and-release was a “foolish” strategy, wrote Sasse, but ripping families apart is “wicked” and “cruel.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) weighed in less than an hour ago on Twitter, pointing to current law that makes it difficult to effectively process asylum applications within an artificially imposed deadline. Describing the current options immigration enforcement authorities have as either releasing the adults and continuing the incentives for illegal immigration or detaining the adults and separating the families, Rubio stated that “neither is good” and called for reforms that would allow families to be held together and expedited hearings to process applications.
Currently govt must either release parents & continue incentive for illegal entry with children or separate families by detaining parents. Neither is good. Lets change the law to allow families to be held together at family facilities & shorten detention with expedited hearings
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 18, 2018
Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) announced today through a spokeswoman that he was cancelling the deployment of Massachusetts National Guard troops to the border, based on his objections to the Trump administration’s “inhumane treatment of children.” According to a report by WGBH News, the Mass National Guard was originally planning to send a helicopter, aircrew, and military analysts to the U.S.-Mexico border at the end of the month, to “provide aviation reconnaissance to offer an additional tool for observation and tracking of unlawful activity in the region.”
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), currently challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for Florida’s Senate seat, weighed in with a statement to the Tampa Bay Times:
What the country is witnessing right now is the byproduct of the many years of bi-partisan inaction and failure from our federal government. They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in this chaos.
Let me be clear – I do not favor separating families. Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is to secure the border. Anyone seeking to enter our country illegally needs to be sent back, with the exception of those who are truly seeking asylum from an oppressive regime.
Former First Lady Laura Bush broke the customary silence past Presidents and First Ladies generally maintain regarding later residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, publishing a sharply-worded op-ed at the Washington Post on Sunday evening, criticizing both the child separation policy in general, and the specific way it was being carried out, with workers being instructed not to hug or comfort the traumatized children in their care.
Another Bush weighed in as well: former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) tweeted on Monday, decrying the use of children as a “negotiating tool,” and calling for calling for Congress to pass immigration reform that includes “asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.” That last part of the tweet drew a swarm of critics, pointing out that more lenient immigration policies were what created this mess in the first place.
Still, additional Republican members of Congress have continued to criticize the Trump administration’s approach to children at the border, advocating for continued border enforcement but a gentler approach to handling these children.
In a statement released by his office, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called the policy “wrong,” and urged Congress to work on a bipartisan solution.
HATCH on the child separation policy:
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) June 18, 2018
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appeared on CNN and said that Trump “could stop this policy with a phone call.”
"President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call." @LindseyGrahamSC says the policy separating families at the border is not "law" like the President continues to declare.https://t.co/xh7aDCQgfW
— Kate Bolduan (@KateBolduan) June 15, 2018
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) called the separation of children from parents something that was “always a tragedy,” noted that he had opposed it under the Obama administration as well, and said he was working on legislation “to remedy this sad situation.”
The separation of children from parents is always a tragedy. While some tolerated it when it happened under the previous administration, I found it unacceptable then & I find it unacceptable now. We’re crafting legislation to remedy this sad situation https://t.co/bEGAqNByRP
— Carlos Curbelo (@carloslcurbelo) June 17, 2018
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) has been one of the most vocal critics from the right side of the aisle, giving numerous press interviews during the past few days calling the child separation policy “nuts,” and a “failed policy.”
This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. This is question about family values. https://t.co/D9G8G8eo28
— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) June 16, 2018
Taking kids out of the hands of their family is not the way to secure our border and address the root causes of our broken immigration system. pic.twitter.com/xtK73WytOD
— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) June 17, 2018
Taking children away from their mommies isn't going to stop terrorists or drugs from coming into our country. pic.twitter.com/SpodIOKrOV
— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) June 17, 2018
— Morning Edition (@MorningEdition) June 18, 2018
— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) June 18, 2018
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