Ohio lawmakers criticize separating kids from parents at border
By Jack Torry
June 19, 2018
Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for separating children from parents trying to cross the border in the United States.
President Trump defended the policy Tuesday blaming Democrats, child smugglers and said Congress needs to take action.
In a statement Tuesday, Portman, R-Ohio, said “the policy is counter to our values. We can have strong border security without separating families at the border. They can be kept together and dealt with as a family unit.”
“The administration should change course immediately and use its executive authority to keep families together and expedite their cases,” Portman said. “If those changes aren’t made, Congress should act quickly on a legislative solution to fix this problem.”
Brown, D-Ohio, who is seeking re-election against Republican Jim Renacci, said “all children should be treated with compassion. Tearing families apart is wrong and will not fix our broken immigration system.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, went on CNN Tuesday and said he’s “opposed to the practice” of separating children from their parents.
“If the president has the ability, certainly the president should end the practice,” he said.
Turner and other House Republicans met with President Trump on the issue Tuesday night.
Turner says Speaker Paul Ryan is backing a bill that would move from a lottery to a merit-based immigration system, end the separations and deal with border security. He said he hopes President Trump will support the speaker’s bill.
“Immigration is the strength and the heart of our country,” Turner said. “We have a system that is absolutely broken.”
The House is expected to consider two competing immigration bills this week which could include language preventing the border separations. But there are deep doubts either bill can pass the House or Senate in part because Republicans are so divided on the issue and Democrats believe neither bill solves the problem.
U.S. Senate candidate Renacci, a House member from Wadsworth, said “protecting both American jobs and our security by securing our borders and fixing our broken immigration system must be a top priority,” and urged swift passage of a bill to “enforce America’s immigration laws” and prevent “the separation of children from their parents on our border.”
President Trump wants Congress to act
President Trump called for Congress to approve what he called a third option to address the family separations.
“So what I’m asking Congress to do is to give us a third option, which we have been requesting since last year, the legal authority to detain and promptly remove families together as a unit,” Trump said. “We have to be able to do this. This is the only solution to the border crisis.”
Under the current policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.
More than 2,300 minors were separated from their children at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Top conservatives, including key Trump allies, have introduced bills to keep the migrant families together. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation that the White House said it was reviewing, and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, also introduced a measure.
“While cases are pending, families should stay together,” tweeted Cruz, who is in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle. He introduced his own bill to speed up court proceedings to no more than 14 days. “Children belong with their families,” he said.
Both bills seemed to be longshots. “This becomes a backup proposal,” Meadows told reporters at the White House.
The Trump administration insists the family separations are required under the law. But after signaling Monday that it would oppose any fix aimed solely at addressing that issue, the White House said Tuesday it was reviewing the emergency legislation being introduced by Cruz to keep migrant families together.
The senator’s bill would add more federal immigration judges, authorize new temporary shelters to house migrant families, speed the processing of asylum cases and require that families that cross the border illegally be kept together, absent criminal conduct or threats to the welfare of any children.
The two immigration bills under consideration in the House could address the separations, but the outlook for passage is dim. Conservatives say the compromise legislation that GOP leaders helped negotiate with moderates is inadequate.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said he’s skeptical that even a full-throated endorsement from Trump will be enough to get the compromise bill through the House.