ST. GEORGE — Utah politicians are seeking solutions and standing up against the Trump administration’s policy that separates children from immigrant families.
The firestorm of criticism from both sides of the aisle about the separation policy included Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch, as well as former first lady Laura Bush.
In a statement Monday, Hatch said a policy that separates children from their families is wrong, and in a tweet Monday, Stewart said “this administration’s policy of zero-tolerance certainly is not the answer.” In addition, Rep. Mia Love said “the administration should change its policy immediately.”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox also tweeted that he “couldn’t agree more” with Bush’s disapproval of the policy in a column Sunday in The Washington Post, where she said the “government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso.”
“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel,” Bush wrote. “It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
The criticism comes after nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.
The policy of catch-and-release was not the answer. This administration’s policy of zero-tolerance certainly is not the answer. In the coming days, I will be working toward a bipartisan solution that keeps families together.
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) June 18, 2018
Donald Trump doubled down Monday on falsely blaming Democrats for the policy, and told reporters at the White House that “the United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility — not on my watch.”
“If the Democrats are serious, they’ll come together again and try to close these loopholes and get real immigration reform,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Monday.
Former Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci said Monday on CNN that it “doesn’t feel right” for the Trump administration to blame Democrats and use the issue as a way of pressuring Democrats into negotiating on a Republican immigration bill.
Despite who’s to blame about the policy, Hatch, Stewart and Love said they are working to provide a bipartisan solution in Congress to keep families together.
“I am working with colleagues in both houses on a path forward that recognizes the need for compassion for children and families without incentivizing illegal border crossings,” Hatch said. “That solution can and should be bipartisan.”
Trump plans to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss pending immigration legislation. The House is expected to vote this week on a bill pushed by conservatives that may not have enough support to pass, and a compromise measure with key proposals supported by the president. The White House has said Trump would sign either one.
Both House proposals face opposition from Democrats, and even if a bill does pass, it will still need to pass the closely-divided Senate.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, said Republicans would face steep consequences for pushing the compromise bill because it provides a path to citizenship for young “Dreamers” brought to the country illegally as children. That effort risks alienating Trump’s political base and could lead to election losses in November, when Republicans hope to preserve their congressional majorities, Bannon said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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