Washington (AFP) – US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he opposes separating undocumented immigrant families at the border and wants Congress to end the controversial practice through immigration legislation.
President Donald Trump has defended his administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, but some Republican lawmakers are growing uneasy about such border security rules implemented to deter other migrants.
When speaking to reporters Ryan was asked if he was comfortable with the tactics.
“No I am not,” he responded.
“We believe it should be addressed in immigration legislation,” he said.
“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents.”
Congress this year has failed to pass legislation aimed at resolving multiple immigration flashpoints, including how to protect so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
But the issue of family separations has swelled into a public relations headache for the Trump administration, with critics including the United Nations branding the tactic a human rights violation.
House Republicans are drafting text barring family separations and are expected to slot it into an immigration bill that the House will consider next week, NBC News reported.
It is unclear whether the broader measure can pass Congress.
Several hundred immigrant families have been separated since October, including many seeking asylum in the United States.
“I don’t think anyone’s happy about what’s happening,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said when asked about the separations.
Senate Democrats are frustrated that no Republicans have joined in support of their Keep Families Together Act, which prohibits such separations.
In the House, top Democrat Nancy Pelosi attacked the separations as a “barbaric” policy that “has to stop.”
She also criticized the strategy, supported by some Republicans, of simply turning away families seeking asylum as a way to reduce family separations.
“That’s not a solution. The solution is not to tear children from their parents,” she told a press conference.
Pelosi downplayed the prospect of legislation as a way to resolve the issue.
An executive branch order could end the policy “just like that,” she said, snapping her fingers.
House Democrat Luis Gutierrez likened the separations to “psychological torture,” a “cruel” policy that will scar children.
Pressure has also built from some conservative quarters including the evangelical community.
Franklin Graham, son of late reverend Billy Graham and an avid Trump supporter, blasted the separation policy as “disgraceful,” and called for a swift fix.
“It’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit, Graham told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Tuesday.