Family separations at the border have become a political football.
Lawmakers and party leaders in Congress are increasingly fighting over how best to address the issue – blaming each other for the heart-wrenching situation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan argued Thursday that Congress should step up and resolve the problem with a legislative fix, while the top Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said the onus is on the Trump administration to simply reverse its policy that spurred the situation.
The Trump administration recently started implementing a policy of prosecuting all adults caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border. Once the adults are referred to the criminal justice system, any children with them are taken into government custody, essentially becoming “unaccompanied minors.”
Republicans are blaming a longstanding court ruling and subsequent court settlement that governs how children can be treated in detention. The settlement means that children can’t be detained longer than a few days to a few weeks, depending on certain factors. Previously, the administration would thus release families together under monitoring. The Trump administration is opting in certain cases to release only the children.
Democrats have been raising noise about the separations for weeks, and Republicans have started to work on legislation. They are expected to introduce a compromise immigration bill next week that will in part address the separations, though it’s unclear exactly what that would look like. An outline obtained by CNN suggests the solution will involve changing or reversing the court settlement at issue.
“I do think it ought to be addressed,” Ryan told reporters Thursday at his weekly press conference. “We believe it should be addressed in immigration legislation.”
Because of the court ruling, Ryan argued it needed a legislative change.
“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” he added.
But Democrats contend a legislative fix is unnecessary and could get bogged down by process.
“What do we do here? We do nothing,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference, lamenting the lack of major legislative accomplishments in Congress. “It’s a horrible thing and I don’t see any prospect for legislation here.”
Pelosi, saying the separations are a result of the new policy by the administration, argued it can also be “changed just like that” by the executive branch, as she snapped her fingers.
Democrats fear Republican efforts to keep families together may result in keeping them in detention together indefinitely. “I just don’t know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country,” Pelosi said.
Since Republicans control the House, it’s all but certain they will proceed with pursuing a legislative fix rather than wait for the executive branch to act, but Pelosi’s comments Thursday signal they won’t get any help from Democrats in that effort.
CNN’s David Siegel and Casey Riddle contributed to this report.