Top Senate Republican Orrin Hatch broke with President Donald Trump on Tuesday over separating families at the southern border, telling reporters he’s “not real happy with the way things are going right now.”
Hatch, who has been a close ally of Trump’s and reaped his praise on the passage of the GOP tax bill last year, announced on Twitter that he has sent a letter to the Justice Department asking it to pause the practice of separating families.
“I’ve asked for a pause so we can really evaluate this and do what’s in the best interest of these children and their families. And we ought to be doing everything in our power to bring the children together with their parents,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “So I want to pause so we can really approach these things intelligently.”
Hatch said he hasn’t heard anything back yet from his colleagues about the letter but suspects they will be grateful he acted. He added that he thought he would be speaking with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about it.
When asked if he is concerned enough to call Trump about the issue, he replied: “No question about that. I want to see what I can do. I usually don’t bother the President but when I do he usually does pick up the phone and talk to me. I think he’s wrong in this particular area today. Yes, I’ll talk to him and do this without bothering him.”
Hatch declined to weigh in on whether the President’s tweet Tuesday morning – using the language ‘infest” to describe illegal immigrants – dehumanized the issue of family separations. “I’m not going to judge anybody’s language,” he said.
He added, “It’s a dangerous situation. If we allow people to just come in here at will, without meeting our laws and our approaches towards immigration, then we’re asking for a country that’s out of control. We can’t do that. They need to come in, if they’re coming here, in accordance with our law and rules of immigration. I think the actions of the administration have been harmful in that particular approach.”
Hatch is one of many high-profile Republicans in Congress who’ve gone out of their way to publicly say they disagree with the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which has resulted in families being separated at the border.
Later Tuesday, Hatch published the letter, which formally asked the attorney general to halt the practice of separating families at the border.
The letter, signed by 11 other Republican senators, placed blame on the Justice Department for the “immediate cause of the crisis” and urged the department to conduct itself “in a way that is consistent with our values and ordinary human decency.”
It went on, “We support the administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents.
This story has been updated with additional developments.