WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress and immigration (all times local):
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his department can’t reunite separated kids with their migrant parents as long as the parents are in detention awaiting resolution of their immigration cases.
Azar told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday that current federal law only allows a 20-day period for parents in immigration detention to keep their children with them. After that, children must be placed in HHS care.
Azar asked senators to change that law.
Questioned by Democratic senators, Azar refused to say how long some 2,000 separated children would remain in HHS shelters. He said HHS conducts extensive vetting of parents to make sure they’re not traffickers masquerading as parents.
He didn’t address the issue of parents who are released from immigration custody while their cases are heard.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says the House will vote Wednesday on a broad Republican immigration bill. But he’s not predicting it passes.
The Wisconsin Republican told reporters Tuesday the measure contains “the seeds of consensus” among Republicans on immigration. He says those issues will be dealt with “hopefully now, but if not, later.” The bill’s defeat seems likely.
Ryan is also declining to discuss a narrower bill Republicans are considering that would focus on curbing the Trump administration’s separation of migrant families when they enter the U.S. illegally.
He says discussing that bill would “undercut” leaders’ efforts to win votes for the wider-ranging measure. It would give young immigrants a chance at citizenship, fund President Donald Trump’s border wall and require the government to keep migrant families together.
Republican leaders are urging a Democratic lawmaker to apologize for saying that people should “push back” on Trump administration officials when they see them in public.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said the remarks from Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California are dangerous.
Ryan says, “There’s no place for this. She obviously should apologize.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot last year at a congressional baseball practice, says lawmakers need to discuss disagreements in a civil way and be careful “not to incite others to violence.”
Waters, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, told rally-goers in her Los Angeles district over the weekend to confront Trump administration members when they’re in public and “tell them they’re not welcome.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his department still has custody of 2,047 migrant children separated from their parents because of the Trump administration’s rescinded “zero tolerance” policy at the southwest border.
That’s only six fewer children than the 2,053 HHS had said were in its custody as of last Wednesday.
Democratic senators questioning Azar during a Finance Committee hearing said that’s nowhere near enough progress.
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden said “HHS, Homeland Security, and the Justice Department seem to be doing a lot more to add to the bedlam and deflect blame than they’re doing to tell parents where their kids are.”
Azar responded that “every parent has access to know where their child is.”
House Republicans focusing on a slimmed-down bill to stem the crisis of separating immigrant families at the border are already running into uncertainty over its fate.
President Donald Trump has rejected one major proposal in the modest measure: adding more immigration judges. While supporters say more judges could help expedite the logjam of claims that can prolong detentions, the president insists it would only lead to graft.
Lawmakers are wavering on what to do next, calling into question whether they will be able to swiftly act on any bills to address the border crisis.
Reports of immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border have prompted an outpouring of public concern.
House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday to consider options before Congress begins its Fourth of July recess.