Outrage persists at US policy of separating children from parents
President blames Congress and loopholes in the law for ‘illegal immigration crisis’
US president Donald Trump was due on Capitol Hill for a meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday evening, amid continuing public outrage at the US policy of separating children from their parents at the US border with Mexico.
Speaking hours before he was scheduled to arrive at a meeting on Tuesday evening on Capitol Hill, Mr Trump again blamed Congress and loopholes in the law for the “illegal immigration crisis on our southern border” as outrage continued about family separation.
“All we need is good legislation, and we can have it taken care of. We have to get the Democrats to go ahead and work with us,” he told the National Federation of Independent Business in a speech.
“I don’t want children taken away from parents,” he said. “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally – which should happen – you have to take the children away.”
He said that while “we’ve got to stop” the separation of families, “politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety, that has to be protected”.
More than 2,300 children have been detained at the border in the last five weeks – a sharp escalation on previous months. The Trump administration maintains that it is following the letter of the law, by detaining adults who enter illegally, and keeping minors in separate government facilities.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Mr Trump remained defiant about the policy. In language that was widely criticised, he said that Democrats wanted illegal immigrants to “infest” the United States. “Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13” – a reference to a criminal gang.
His comments were delivered ahead of the crunch meeting with top House Republicans in Congress. House speaker Paul Ryan had already been moving forward with immigration legislation before the crisis involving the separation of immigration families exploded as a political issue.
The Republican leadership had been busy formulating an immigration package that would secure funding for the border wall, but also address some Republicans’ concern about the status of so-called Dreamers – young people who arrived in the United States illegally as children – and other undocumented immigrants.
But there were signs on Tuesday that the draft legislation would involve a separate provision addressing the issue of familial separation, and prohibiting the department of homeland security from separating parents from children. Separately, in the Senate, Republicans were considering relatively narrow legislation that would address the issue.
However, it was highly uncertain if either measure would garner enough support to pass in Congress.
The move by both houses of Congress to try to deal with the escalating crisis at the border came amid a refusal by the executive to row back on its policy. Several senior Republicans have criticised the policy.
The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, was among those to break rank with the president. He said he would withdraw four members of the Maryland national guard from the southern border until the policy was halted.
Meanwhile, the United States was expected to pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council late on Tuesday. UN ambassador Nikki Haley and secretary of state Mike Pompeo were expected to make a statement at the UN in New York, in which they were expected to announce America’s withdrawal from the human rights body.
Mr Trump regularly criticised the body, which was created in 2006, during the presidential campaign, and Ms Haley has said the body has been biased against Israel.
A US withdrawal from the council would be the latest move by the Trump administration to shun multilateral agreements and organisations.