President Trump called on Congress to “pass smart, fast and reasonable Immigration Laws now,” putting pressure on legislators to reform immigration policies ahead of the midterm elections.
People gather on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday to protest the federal government’s policy of separating children from their parents trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
“Law Enforcement at the Border is doing a great job,” Trump said, “but the laws they are forced to work with are insane.”
The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018, a bill which failed in the house, sought to reform immigration policy through funding for a border wall, ending the catch and release policy and providing a solution for the current beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In June, less than a third of the House voted to pass the bill.
Another bill, the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, another attempt at immigration reform, was reported out of committee on June 21. It will have to pass through the House and the Senate before being signed by the president to become law.
The bill would overturn the Flores Agreement, which prevented the detention of a child at the border for more than 20 days. Because this restriction would be removed, children would be detained with their parents through their legal proceedings. Currently, there is no maximum detention period that would replace the Flores Agreement.
“It is cruel to separate families. But it is also cruel and irresponsible to return to a policy that encourages parents to bring their children on a dangerous journey,” said Senator Marco Rubio. “This bill will allow us to change the law so that families will remain together while awaiting prioritized proceedings. We should pass it immediately and reunite families.”
Other members of Congress see detention as an unhelpful alternative to child separation.
“Some have argued indefinite detention is needed to ensure individuals show up for their court cases,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a press release. “Yet, according to ICE’s own statistics, 99.8 percent of people in the Alternative to Detention Program show up to their day in court.”
Separating children from their parents caused some bipartisan action, but it has not yet been solidified in a legislative solution.
“There is agreement, I believe, between both Republicans and Democrats that children belong with their parents,” said Senator Ted Cruz. “We should codify that agreement, we should put it into law.”
The children currently separated from their families from the previous policy are waiting to be reunited. Under 3,000 minors will have their DNA tested to match them with their parents.
U.S. officials have ordered “DNA testing to confirm parentage quickly and accurately,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on a conference call. A court ordered the nearly 100 detained children under five years of age to be reunited by next Tuesday.