Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said he’s not comfortable with the Trump administration’s push to separate migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, even as he refused to blame President Donald Trump on the issue.
“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” Ryan told reporters, before arguing that the courts were at fault and that legislation was needed to stop what critics decry as “barbaric” behavior.
But the policy stems from the White House — part of a wider Trump administration effort to crack down on illegal immigration and what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has defended as a “tough deterrent.”
House Republicans are considering including a provision in a new immigration bill that would halt migrant children from being separated from their parents, a direct rebuff of the controversial policy.
The details of the proposal are still being worked but House Republican sources say they’re looking to include it in legislation expected to get a vote next week that’s the result of weeks of negotiations between conservative and moderate Republicans.
Even so, the “compromise” bill Ryan referenced in his press conference has little chance of becoming law. It’s still unclear if the bill, a deal brokered to head off a centrist effort to force a wide-ranging immigration debate on the House floor, even has enough votes to pass the House.
No Democrats are expected to support the bill, which mirrors a Trump-backed framework and would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers; an increase in border security and interior enforcement, including $25 billion for the border wall; curb family migration and eliminate the diversity visa lottery.
Meanwhile, stories of children being pulled apart from their parents at the border — including a mother whose daughter was taken from her while breastfeeding — have continued to dominate headlines in recent weeks.
The increase in family separations comes after the Trump administration’s decision to pursue a “zero tolerance” policy, prosecuting all immigrants suspected of crossing into the U.S. illegally.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the policy in a separate press conference Thursday, calling it “barbaric,” and skewered Ryan and other GOP leaders for not doing more to stop it.
“The casual attitude that they’re having about this …they could weigh in with the administration and stop it on a dime," she said about Republican leaders. "This is not normal. In fact, it’s barbaric. It has to stop.”
Pelosi was asked about the potential provision in the GOP immigration bill to prevent family separations and whether that would be enough to garner Democratic votes, but she dismissed the idea as unlikely to have any real impact.
"I don’t see any prospect for legislation here," she said.
Pelosi and a group of more than a dozen other Democrats will visit the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego on Monday. Their trip will include a visit to at least one facility housing migrant children who were separated from their parents.