U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Wednesday that President Trump’s new executive order to address his controversial zero-tolerance immigration policy may complicate things on Capitol Hill.
House Republican leaders are searching for a way to tamp down the controversy over family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. GOP leaders are urging passage of a compromise immigration measure negotiated between conservative and moderate Republicans, but lawmakers said Wednesday they were a few votes short. A more conservative measure is expected to fail.
Davis, a Taylorville Republican who represents parts of Bloomington-Normal, said he supports the compromise measure. He spoke to GLT on Wednesday just after Trump announced his executive order, reversing his administration’s family-separation policy change.
“I’d certainly rather have a law than an executive action. That law then could stop any administration from changing their policies. I’ll be honest with you—the executive action may stop us from getting to a consensus to be able to put a good policy of not separating families when they come across the border, regardless of whether they’re at a point of entry or coming in illegally, from actually being codified into law. That would be disappointing."
Republicans are focused on passing an immigration bill this week. The goal has taken on greater urgency amid national outrage and concern over the White House policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border amid widespread condemnation of the practice.
“I don’t think families should be separated. But this isn’t just something that is indicative of this administration. This also happened under the previous administration.”
In reality, the Obama administration established family detention centers that kept families together while their cases were processed.
However, those centers were sharply criticized for keeping children detained even if they were still with their parents. A court ruled that those detention centers violated a two-decade-old agreement—called the Flores agreement—and that families should be released together.
The Obama White House also had a policy of releasing families through a program called Alternatives to Detention that still allowed them to be closely supervised — for instance, by giving mothers ankle monitors before releasing them.
In addition to dealing with family separation, the compromise immigration bill supported by Davis would also fund Trump’s wall with Mexico and deal with so-called Dreamers left in limbo by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“It’s fluid right now,” Davis told GLT.
Reaction From LaHood
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood also spoke to GLT on Wednesday from Washington.
"This family separation was not a long-term solution to anything. I was happy the president signed his executive order to end this practice," LaHood said.
LaHood, a Republican from Dunlap who also represents parts of Bloomington-Normal, said "we have an obligation in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform." He said he expected a vote Thursday or Friday.
“A number of our immigration laws are unclear or have been interpreted in different ways by previous administrations, both Republicans and Democrats," LaHood said. "And frankly, we’ve ignored some of the laws that have been in place, and now, I think it’s the time to change that and have a comprehensive immigration reform bill."
Reaction from Davis' challenger
Davis will face Springfield Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in November's general election for the 13th Congressional District. Londrigan called the family separations "appaling."
“The appalling tearing apart of families has nothing to do with the very real needs to secure our border and fix our immigration system and could be immediately brought to an end if people like Congressman Davis had the courage to stand up to the leaders in their own party and demand it," Londrigan said in a statement.
“Congressman Davis can say whatever he wants, but he will be judged on whether or not there is real action to protect these kids and stop this awful policy and should also be judged on his and his colleagues’ inaction during the time that they have spent in office," Londrigan said. "Congressman Davis has had years to address these problems and years to work toward meaningful solutions but has consciously chosen to focus his attention elsewhere. It would be far easier to make the needed changes happen if he would work across the aisle rather than constantly play the blame game.”
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