Republicans on Capitol Hill frantically searched on Tuesday (June 19) for ways to end the administration's policy of separating families after illegal border crossings, ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss broader immigration legislation.
Two polls released Monday from CNN and Quinnipiac University backed that up, showing that two-thirds of Americans disagreed with the family separation policy. "This practice is contrary to American values and must be stopped", said Hector Balderas, the attorney general in the border state of New Mexico.
Several groups of lawmakers toured a nearby facility in Brownsville, Texas, that houses hundreds of immigrant children.
The person providing the information on the proposal was not authorized to do so by name and commented only on condition of anonymity.
While Democrats like Nancy Pelosi blasted such treatment as "barbaric" and some Republicans also voiced concerns, Nielsen and other Trump administration officials have said the separations are necessary to enforce immigration laws, and that it falls to Congress to change the laws.
Heartbreaking cries of youngsters calling for their parents in tears can be heard on the tape, reportedly released by a whistleblower at one of the border camps. Republicans are increasingly joining Democrats in that call.
"MS-13 gang members are truly, and you've heard me say it, animals-and yet Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats continue to protect them and to push for open borders", Trump said.
"We have to get the Democrats to go ahead and work with us because as a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border can not be detained together or removed together - only released", he said. Last month, a father killed himself after separation from his family.
Because the government is charging the parents in the criminal justice system, children are separated from them with no clear procedure for their reunification aside from hotlines the parents can call to try to track their children down.
The national outcry over the separations has roiled midterm election campaigns, emboldening Democrats while putting Republicans on the defensive.
They have joined a growing chorus of voices condemning the policy, as the White House said it was looking at emergency legislation meant to keep immigrant families together, tabled by Republican senator Ted Cruz, of Texas.
"While cases are pending, families should stay together", tweeted Cruz, who is in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle. He introduced his own bill to speed up court proceedings to no more than 14 days. "She's a child. How can they treat her this way?" Both were drafted with no input from Democrats. Another is doing a standalone bill, though the White House is not fond of that method, according to CNN.
Trump said, "We've got to stop separation of the families, " but also said: "We can't let people pour in".
"The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families", said Sen. "It should do so now".
Sessions, long a hardliner on immigration, has come under particularly intense criticism after he cited a biblical passage regarding adherence to the law as justification for the family separations.
The senator further pressed the president's pick to take over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Tuesday for clarification on her role in crafting the administration's policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their families at the border. Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts said he is "against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration". "I'm committed to finding a solution that preserves the respect for the rule of law and secures our borders while being compassionate to these young children".