June 15 (UPI) — Hours after appearing to strike down a Republican-led compromise bill that would stop border authorities from separating children from their parents, the White House said President Donald Trump was still considering the legislation as well as a more conservative bill written by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
During an interview with Fox and Friends on Friday morning, the president said he’s looked at the two immigration proposals and that he was considering them both.
He then said he “certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one,” which is a House bill that would provide $25 billion in additional funding for a border wall and legal status for migrants who crossed the border illegally as children, including a path to citizenship.
“I hate the children being taken away,” Trump told reporters at the White House later Friday. “We need a wall. We need border security.”
But the White House sought to clarify his remarks later in the afternoon.
“The president fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah said. “In this morning’s interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package. He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills.”
The discharge petition was an effort to bypass committee on another piece of immigration legislation.
The proposed House bills are set for votes next week.
Trump took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to lay out his own requirements before he’s willing to sign any immigration legislation.
“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!” he said.
Trump’s comments came a day after protesters rallied across the nation against the separation policy.
Protesters gathered in more than a dozen states — including California, Texas, Michigan and New York — on Thursday to bring attention to what organizers say is the administration’s “cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers.”
More protests were planned Friday in a number of cities next week.
Anna Tarkov, communications director for organizer Families Belong Together, said about 60 cities and towns staged rallies.
She said many supporters contacted the group asking to participate.
“The outrage and the desperation is through the roof,” Tarkov said.
The demonstrations were promoted by the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org.
Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, promising “100 percent” of immigrants who enter the United States unlawfully will be prosecuted.
“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he said.
Since the policy was announced, about 500 children have been separated from their parents, said Miguel A. Nogueras, an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen.
During a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Thursday, Sessions said, “That is what the law calls for — and that is what we are going to do. … Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.”
Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said the “outrage and opposition will only keep growing if the administration continues this cruelty of separating families.”
Earlier this month, activists called for international intervention in the U.S. push to separate migrant children from their parents, a practice the Human Rights Watch called “cruel.”
A coalition of four rights groups and legal organizations submitted a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — a body of the Organization of American States — asking it to “immediately stop a human rights and humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the U.S. government in the Texas-Mexico border.”
Families Belong Together coordinator Shannon Heesacker McClain said politics should not keep families apart.
“If you think that family values are important, at the top of that list is just the basic right of the family to be together,” McClain said. “I really think that everybody should be able to get behind this message that these families belong together and they shouldn’t be separated in this way.”