Senate panel scrutinizes Trump officials over family separation

01 August, 2018, 05:04 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez

President Donald Trump today threatened a government shutdown if the US Congress refuses to back major changes to immigration policies like establishing a merit-based system, saying America is the "laughing stock of the world" due to the "worst" immigration laws.

"If we don't get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown", Trump said during a joint news conference at the White House alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. At the time, Trump said the deal was "defective at its core".

He wants lawmakers to approve $25bn (£19bn) to fund the construction of a "big, attractive wall" on the US-Mexico border, a signature promise of his election campaign. "No preconditions, no", Trump said.

He said that needed border security reforms included the wall, the visa lottery, catch-and-release policies, and immigration laws.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first and possibly only congressional oversight hearing on the Trump administration immigration policies that led to the forced separation of thousands of parents and children.

Has President Trump made this threat before? Two of the five panelists said they had visited the facilities.

"I hope that just maybe the efforts to come up with a solution are not dead and we will be able to come up with a compassionate solution to the problem, which is to keep families together and enforce the law", Cornyn said.

"Border security includes the wall, but it includes many other things".

This declaration sets up a clash between the White House and Republican congressional leadership following meetings between the president, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in which the Trump was lobbied to leave immigration out of the spending fight.

"That's a hard question to answer, " said Jennifer Higgins, the associate director of refugee, asylum and global operations at US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Few Republicans think Trump will actually force a shutdown in September anyway, noting that Trump has repeatedly declined to put a time frame on when exactly he would force a confrontation over his border wall funding.

McConnell steered clear of criticizing Trump, saying that while he supports what the president is trying to achieve on the border wall, the Senate is working to resolve the issue through regular order.

'The president's willing to be patient to make sure that we get what we need so we can that done, ' Ryan said after the meeting, adding that funding the wall was 'not a question of if, it's a question of when'.

McConnell, asked about a shutdown during a radio interview in Kentucky, said it was not going to happen.

Both chambers will have a short window to approve a spending bill before government funding expires.

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Spending bills have appropriated funds to replace existing walls or barriers, something Trump has tried to promote to his supporters as signs of progress.

"It would allow parents and children to stay in a safe facility while they wait their court proceedings and then move them to the front of the line to present their case before an immigration judge", said Texas Republican John Cornyn of the proposed bill from his colleagues.

Late Monday, Grassley and the Judiciary panel's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, sent a letter asking the inspectors general of the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments to investigate news organization's reports of abuse of immigrants at detention centers.

Trump's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting migrants entering the USA without authorization, his separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, and botched efforts to reunite many of them has drawn election-year criticism from both parties. "We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world", Trump said, adding the United States needs border security.


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