President Donald Trump said he hates his own administration’s policy that separates immigrant children from parents when they illegally cross the U.S. border but said he’d refuse to sign compromise immigration legislation crafted by House Republicans that, among other provisions, would end the practice.
“I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law,” Trump said during an impromptu media appearance on the White House lawn. “That’s their law and we can change it tonight.”
But White House officials haven’t been able to cite any part of U.S. law that requires the policy, which was initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president, his aides and congressional Republicans all have given differing rationales for it: Sessions and Chief of Staff John Kelly said children were being taken away as a deterrent while Republicans in Congress recently have said it’s based on a 1997 court settlement regarding the treatment of immigrant children in federal custody.
Trump’s remarks about refusing to sign a compromise plan that was headed to a vote next week in the House blows up an agreement brokered by House Speaker Paul Ryan among Republican factions seeking to defuse a politically fraught issue less than five months before elections that will decide control of Congress.
It also contradicts assurances that House Republicans said they were given earlier this week by Stephen Miller, the main architect of the Trump administration’s approach on immigration. Lawmaker said Miller told them in a closed door meeting that Trump supported them bringing two versions of immigration legislation to a vote, a plan crafted by GOP moderates and a version backed by House conservatives.
‘Certainly Won’t Sign’
“I’m looking at both of them. I certainly won’t sign the more moderate one,” Trump said Friday.
The issue of separating families at the border has generated increasing public backlash and threatens to become an issue in the November election. The House moderate plan would specifically state that a minor who doesn’t arrive at the border unaccompanied must be released to a parent or legal guardian.
Children who arrive with their parents currently are being sent to temporary government shelters while their parents go through the legal process. Republicans in the Senate said Thursday said they may seek separate legislation to end the practice.