Trump backs plan to end separations but shirks responsibility
President tells Republicans he is ‘1,000 per cent’ behind immigration reform efforts
Donald Trump told Republicans he was “1,000 per cent” behind immigration reform efforts but did not offer a clear path forward as his administration faces condemnation for its practice of separating children from their parents at the border.
At a close-door meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, Mr Trump expressed concern for the families being separated by the “zero-tolerance” policy, members said, but he did not take responsibility for the practice.
Instead the president urged the Republicans in the room to pass legislation that keeps families together.
“The president does want this to end,” Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a centrist Republican from Florida who has led the charge for immigration reform, said after the meeting.
Mr Curbelo said Mr Trump told members his daughter, Ivanka, had appealed to him to stop separating families at the border.
And yet the president gave no indication he was willing to reverse the separation policy and did not acknowledge that he could stop the separations without legislation, he added. Instead, the president insisted Congress deliver a legislative solution.
Unbowed by mounting public anger from lawmakers, religious leaders, human rights advocates and business executives, Mr Trump and top administration officials have fiercely defended the policy, which has led to the separation of more than 2,300 children from their parents in five weeks.
‘Don’t you have kids?’
That anger was captured by a protester, who shouted at Mr Trump as he walked through the Capitol before the meeting on Tuesday evening. “Mr President, f**k you,” she yelled across the marbled rotunda.
As Mr Trump left the session with Republicans, he faced a rare protest by members of Congress. The group of House Democrats shouted at the president to abandon his controversial immigration policy while waving signs that read: “Families Belong together”.
“Mr President, don’t you have kids? Don’t you have kids, Mr President?” Congressman Juan Vargas yelled at Mr Trump as he left the meeting room. “How would you like it if they separated your kids?”
Passing a crush of cameras, Mr Trump told reporters: “We had a great meeting. These are laws that have been broken for many years - decades. But we had a great meeting.”
House Republicans - barreling toward a vote on a pair of immigration bills - were hoping the president would rally skeptical members of the caucus around a proposal that sought common ground between moderates and conservatives on an issue that has fiercely divided the party.
But instead Mr Trump said he would sign either proposal that came to his desk, members said.
“He said we need to pass one of the two bills,” Congressman Kevin Yoder, a Republican of Kansas, said after the meeting. He added the president was “agnostic” about which of the two measures they should pass.
During his remarks, which were expected to focus on immigration, Trump spoke about his recent visit to North Korea and his trade policy, members said. He also openly mocked the Republican congressman Mark Sanford, a conservative critic of the president who lost his primary this month after Trump endorsed his opponent, they said.