As the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on two immigration proposals later this week, two metro-east congressmen said separating families at the southern border is something they don't want to see. But they stopped short of condemning the policy.
A proposed compromise immigration bill would address the ongoing family separation issue but not end the policy, according to reports. Parents and children who cross the border illegally would be able to stay together, but adults with other offenses would be separated. The compromise legislation would give legal status to so-called "dreamers" who have been here at least 10 years, as well as provide funding for a border wall.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said he is looking to support the compromise bill.
“It is an investment in securing the border,” Bost said. “I believe that the groups have come together and worked well on it.”
Bost insisted the Trump administration policy of separating parents from children at the border is not new policy, saying the Obama administration policy also carried out the practice. Fact-checking groups say otherwise.
“At no time do we want to separate families,” Bost said. “That being said, if a law has been disobeyed ... sometimes right as the prosecution is going on, and the investigation, the separation occurs. If you were caught shoplifting at a local store, and you had children with you, while you were going through the process you would be separated. There’s a process now in place, and I think it’s coming out very very clear, through our border agents, on how this process works."
He added, "If we secure these borders and get things in place, that separation is not going to occur because you won’t get that activity for that illegal act.”
The separation of parents from their children has caused an uproar. The practice has been stepped up since the Department of Homeland Security in May issued a zero-tolerance policy for those caught illegally crossing the border.
Republicans contend the practice of separating children from parents also took place during the Obama administration. However, during the previous administration, families were rarely separated, and children who were unaccompanied when they crossed the border primarily traveled without their parents.
Another bill being considered is one being pushed by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, and is considered the hardline legislation which calls for additional border patrol agents and customs officers, money to construct a southern border wall, ends the practice of chain migration, ends the diversity visa program, and increases green cards for skilled workers.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, would not commit to either bill when asked while he was visiting Scott Air Force Base on Tuesday.
Davis said he was waiting to hear from President Trump about his thoughts on the proposed legislation.
“Let’s see what the final bills look like,” Davis said. “Let’s figure out how we can come together to actually pass a bill that’s going to really truly address the immigration issues that we have.”
He also said the issue of separating families will be addressed in the immigration bills.
“This is not something that is unique to this president’s administration,” Davis said. “We’re going to do what we can legislatively to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future and it’s long overdue."
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, in a Facebook post Tuesday, said: "Separating families seeking asylum is upsetting and unnecessary, and it’s an unfortunate result of our broken immigration system and unsecured borders. The House will vote this week on immigration reform proposals, and I expect that at least one of those bills will include a provision to keep families together while their asylum claims are adjudicated."