Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump, facing mounting anger over the separation of migrant children from their parents at the US border, threw prospects of a swift fix into doubt Friday, saying he would not sign compromise immigration legislation ending the policy.
Congressional Republicans have struggled to craft a plan that would curb immigration but end the “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from those who are criminally prosecuted for crossing the border illegally.
The Republican-led House of Representatives may vote next week on two immigration measures — a hard-line bill and the one seen as a compromise between moderate and conservative factions that would end the family separations.
“I’m looking at both of them,” Trump told Fox News.
“I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.”
Trump’s opposition deals a body blow to efforts to tamp down the crisis at the border, where hundreds of families have been separated since last October, including many seeking asylum in the United States.
Republicans say they have been working closely with the administration on drafting a compromise bill that could earn the president’s signature.
The bill currently circulating in the House reportedly would provide $25 billion for a border wall, and detail a process that gives young undocumented immigrants permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship.
It would also include Trump priorities including limits to some legal immigration.
Trump, in a follow-up tweet, accused Democrats of “forcing the breakup of families at the border” because they are pushing a “cruel legislative agenda.”
He also addressed what he wants in new legislation including “full funding for the Wall,” an end to a diversity visa lottery and certain categories of family-based migration, and a shift toward “merit based immigration” for skilled workers.
Democrats swiftly went on the counterattack.
“The @HouseGOP immigration proposal is simply unworthy of America,” top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi tweeted.
“The fact that the President himself won’t sign it (because it isn’t *conservative* enough) is a sign of just how low his standards are.”
Trump stressed he opposes the family separations.
“I hate the children being taken away,” he told reporters.
But he also repeated the falsehood that Democrats, who are currently in the minority in Congress, are responsible for a law that requires family separations.
“The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law,” Trump said.
There is no law that requires parents be separated from their children at the border. But if parents in the United States are jailed, their children are split from them because the children are not themselves charged with a crime.