House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he opposed the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents after families were detained for crossing the southern border illegally.
“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” he said, but added that the policy was being dictated by a court ruling and that legislation was needed to fix the problem.
The court decision he referred to was a 1997 agreement called the Flores settlement, which required that the feds in many cases release immigrant children in their custody.
The settlement does not require the government to separate families who arrive together, and previous administrations did not interpret it that way.
But Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an immigration hardliner, have declared a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration and ordered that kids be taken from their parents as a deterrent that was supposed to scare migrant families from attempting to enter the US.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed Trump’s policy as “barbaric” and said the administration should “stop the practice on a dime.”
Separating families as parents are being detained “is not what America is, but this is the policy of the Trump administration,” she said.
“What is it that they don’t get about how stupid, and wrong and immoral” the policy is, she said.
“This is not normal. It’s barbaric. It has to stop. I don’t know why there aren’t uprisings across the country.”
Thousands of children have been ripped away from their parents and sent to detention centers, with many confined to massive tents on military bases.
The lawmakers’ comments came as House Republicans were considering their next steps on two immigration bills.
Ryan and other GOP leaders persuaded moderate Republicans to drop a renegade effort to force votes on legislation that would have protected young “Dreamer” immigrants with a path to citizenship.
Votes on immigration bills could be held as soon as next week, although Ryan said Thursday he “won’t guarantee passage” of any measure.