FILE - In this June 15, 2018, file photo, the Capitol is seen in Washington. The Senate is taking up a $145 billion spending bill to fund the Energy Department and veterans' programs for the next budget year. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Latest: Trump, GOP debate immigration fix

June 19, 2018 - 11:05 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress and immigration (all times local):

10:50 a.m.

Homeland security officials say they are still working out the process of reunifying parents with their children after they're separated at the border.

Officials said Tuesday that 2,342 minors were separated from their parents who were caught trying to come to the U.S. illegally from May 5 to June 9. Trump administration officials adopted a 'zero tolerance' policy at the border where they are arresting anyone who crosses illegally. Because children can't go to jail with their parents, they are being separated.

Homeland security officials say the process of reunifying families is a work in progress. They say officers at the border have discretion on whether to separate children younger than age 5. They said they don't have a breakdown how on the ages of the children separated.


10:48 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson plans a visit Tuesday to a reopened Miami-area facility for children who entered the U.S. illegally and alone.

Another Florida Democrat, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, confirmed the facility's use during an event Monday. But it was unclear how long the facility, known as the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, had been open, or whether it's housing children who came without their parents or those who've been separated from their parents by U.S. authorities.

The 1,000-bed facility is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Department spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said in an email Monday that it had reopened as "a temporary unaccompanied alien children program facility." He did not provide additional details.

Several dozen children could be seen Tuesday morning playing soccer outside the building behind a chain link fence. Security officials would not let reporters near the facility or provide details on conditions inside.


10:36 a.m.

President Donald Trump says "we must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally."

In a series of Twitter posts Tuesday, Trump contends Democrats don't care about crime in the U.S. and "want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13." He claims Democrats "can't win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!"

Trump planned to discuss immigration legislation later Tuesday with House Republican lawmakers at the Capitol.

The administration is under pressure to reverse an immigration enforcement policy that has led to the separation of nearly 2,000 migrant children from their families in recent weeks.

Trump says Congress has the "best opportunity" it's ever had to "change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration."


10:18 a.m.

One of President Donald Trump's top allies in Congress says he's introducing stand-alone legislation to stop family separations at the border — in case House Republicans' broader immigration bills fail this week.

Rep. Mark Meadows, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, says his bill "becomes a backup proposal."

The North Carolina Republican's legislation is expected to take a similar approach as the family-separation provisions in the House Republican bills. They loosen existing procedures that limit the amount of time minors can remain in custody, which would allow them stay with their parents rather than face separation. Critics complain it would open the door to long detentions for kids.

GOP leaders were not immediately familiar with Meadows' effort and it was unclear how closely he was working with the administration or House Republicans on the alternative.


9:55 a.m.

Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia says lawmakers "need to do everything we can" to make sure children can stay with parents who cross the border illegally.

Goodlatte is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a key player on immigration legislation before the House this week. He said in an interview Tuesday on CNN that he has no objections to keeping migrant families together.

He says he is backing the two House immigration bills that are set to come up for a vote. Goodlatte authored one of the measures, which is favored by conservatives.

A rival, compromise GOP immigration measure includes language curbing the separation of immigrant children from parents when they are detained. Lawmakers also hope to add that language to a more conservative measure.

If neither bill can pass, Goodlatte says he will take a look at a simpler, short-term bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would keep families together.


9:53 a.m.

Democratic attorneys general are demanding the Trump administration end a "zero tolerance" policy that has resulted in children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, 21 top state prosecutors from California to Massachusetts sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen (KEER'-sten) Nielsen.

The attorneys call the policy inhumane, saying it raises concerns about violations of children's rights and constitutional principles of due process and equal protection.

Nearly 2,000 minors have been separated from their families since Sessions announced the policy where everyone caught crossing the border illegally will be prosecuted. Children can't go to jail with their parents, so they're separated.

U.S. officials say the children are well cared for.


7:30 a.m.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona says the Trump administration's current family separation policy is "an affront to the decency of the American people" and contrary to principles and values upon which the nation was founded.

McCain tweeted Monday night that the administration has the power to rescind this policy and "should do so now."

McCain is among a growing number of Republican lawmakers voicing concern over the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal border crossings. Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution. With adults detained and facing prosecution, any minors accompanying them are taken away.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.


12:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump and House Republicans are set for a crucial meeting as lawmakers push to end the policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border.

Members of both parties are decrying the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to migrant detention. Many of them are demanding that the administration act to keep families together.

Legislation in the House could end the family separations, but it appears unlikely to pass. Senators say they may soon work on a bill of their own.

The Trump administration says the family separations are required under the law and can only be ended by Congress. Democrats say Trump is refusing to take responsibility for his own policy.

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