Sen. Alexander calls on administration to end separating kids & parents

United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the separation of children from their parents at the border:

“Illegal immigration is against the law but new enforcement policies have resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their parents. The administration should end that new policy immediately while Congress works with the president on a bipartisan immigration solution that secures the border, provides a status for those already here and prevents a humanitarian crisis at the border.”

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

1:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump is asserting he has only two options on immigration: Separating migrant children from their parents at the border or “open borders.”

Trump is discussing immigration during remarks in front of the National Federation of Independent Business’s 75th anniversary celebration.

He says he’s requesting a “third option” from Congress that will allow officials to detain children and parents together as a family unit.

A new “zero tolerance” policy from the Trump administration has led to a spike in children being separated from their parents at the border as they seek entry.

Trump says, “we’ve got to stop separation of the families,” but says: “we can’t let people pour in.”

He’s arguing that, “politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety.”


1:15 p.m.

Guatemala says it has a preliminary count of 465 children from the Central American nation who have been separated from families on the U.S. border.

Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel says authorities are checking to verify the complete number, and consular officials are working to identify minors and follow each case.

Jovel says the Guatemalan government sent a note to the U.S. State Department “asking for help” to resolve the situation. She adds that Guatemala is asking “for respect and for there to be concern for children.”

Jovel said Tuesday that the minors “are not detained but rather in shelters where they are being given the best treatment possible.”


1:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Congress must give him the legal authority to detain and remove families that illegally enter the U.S. as a unit. His administration has argued that it has no choice but to separate families if the adults are caught crossing the border illegally, thus breaking the law.

Trump says right now the administration has just two options to deal with the flow: totally open borders or criminally prosecute border-crossers for breaking the law. Trump is under mounting pressure to reverse an immigration enforcement policy that has led to the separation of more than 2,300 migrant children from their families in recent weeks.

He says roughly half a million illegal family units have been released into the U.S. interior since 2014. Trump says that has come at “unbelievably great taxpayer expense.”

Trump is telling the National Federation of Independent Business on Tuesday that “we have to have Democrat support” to fix the problem.


12:50 p.m.

Florida lawmakers were prohibited Tuesday from entering a Miami-area facility housing immigrant children.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, both Democrats, told reporters outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children that they would try to record video from inside the facility.

Before attempting to enter the facility, Wasserman Schultz said it was being used for both children who arrived as unaccompanied minors as well as children separated from their families at the border.

Wasserman Schultz said she had been told she would need to make a request to visit the facility two weeks in advance. The congresswoman said that policy “continues to smack of cover up.”

Nelson called said “they are obviously hiding something” and that he will raise the issue in the Senate.


12:35 p.m.

The Mexican government is condemning the separation of children from families on the U.S. border.

Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray says at a news conference Tuesday that the country does not promote illegal migration, but it “cannot remain indifferent in the face of something that clearly represents a violation of human rights.”

He calls the policy “cruel and inhumane.”

Videgaray says the Mexican government has been providing consular support since the policy was announced. He adds that only 21 children of Mexican nationality have been identified as separated from their parents, a small fraction of the total. All but seven of those have been repatriated.

The vast majority of children involved are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.


12:29 p.m.

Gov. Larry Hogan says Maryland will recall the four members of the National Guard he sent to the U.S.-Mexico border and will not deploy other resources until a federal policy of separating immigrant children from their families is rescinded.

Hogan made the announcement Tuesday on Twitter.

The Republican governor says he has ordered four crewmembers and a helicopter to immediately return from where they were stationed in New Mexico.

Hogan says Washington has failed repeatedly to deliver needed immigration reform. The governor says Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration “must step up and work together to fix our broken system.”

Hogan says immigration enforcement efforts “should focus on criminals, not separating innocent children from their families.”


11:50 a.m.

The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says there is no other way to put it: “Thousands of children are being forcibly removed from their parents by our government.”

Thomas Donohue, the business advocacy group’s president and CEO, says “this is not who we are and it must stop now.”

Donohue says a nation as big and generous as the U.S. can find a way to prevent separating children from their parents at the border.

As the House takes up two immigration bills this week, the chamber is also calling for Congress to step in and prevent young people known as Dreamers from being deported.

Donohue says they were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own as children. To allow their deportation, he says would be a “true injustice.”


11:30 a.m.

The governments of El Salvador and Honduras are expressing concern over separations of families at the U.S. border.

The Salvadoran government issued a statement Tuesday saying the policy entails a “violation of human rights” and increases the “vulnerability of girls, boys and adolescents.”

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez says he raised the issue in Washington on Monday during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He tweeted late Monday that he had expressed his concern that the policy “violates the universal principle of a child’s best interests.”


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.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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