WASHINGTON — As objection to a Trump administration policy that separates families who enter the United States illegally grows, West Virginia’s senators acted in different ways Monday in regards to immigration and border security.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., met with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss funding border security efforts, while Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced he is cosponsoring legislation to keep immigrant families together.
Capito, who chairs the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee, talked to Trump and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby about ways to fund the work of the Department of Homeland Security; the subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the department’s spending request for the 2019 fiscal year.
Capito was unavailable for an interview following the meeting. She said in a joint statement with Shelby the lawmakers and the president agree on the importance of keeping the country safe.
“Our highest priority is securing the U.S. border,” the senators said. “The Senate bill puts a major down payment on the larger efforts underway to pass immigration reform and secure funding for border security.”
A measure would need 60 votes to pass.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that Mexico would pay to build.
The White House meeting came amid increasing outcry over a policy allowing migrant children to be separated from their parents and placed in detention centers. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April a “zero-tolerance” policy enforcing that adults who enter the United States illegally would be criminally prosecuted.
“If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It is that simple,” Sessions said in May. “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you as required by law.”
Trump and administration officials have blamed related actions on Democrats.
“It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”
“The voices that most loudly criticize the enforcement of our current laws are those whose policies have created this crisis and whose policies perpetrate it,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at Monday’s White House press briefing.
A Department of Homeland Security official said last week that nearly 2,000 children had been separated from adults between April 19 and May 31. Nielsen said Monday 10,000 children currently in the care of the Department of Homeland Security were sent to the United States alone.
Capito said in a statement to MetroNews people who want to come to the United States should do so through legal options. Her remark also noted the stories involving the separation policy.
“Anyone who wishes to immigrate to the United States should do so through the legal process in compliance with our laws,” she said. “I know we can do better than some of the stories of family separation being reported in the news recently, and it’s clear that there is real bipartisan agreement that more needs to be done to secure our borders, strengthen our immigration system, and provide a strong, yet compassionate solution to the immigration challenges facing our country.”
Manchin — a member of the Homeland Security subcommittee — announced Monday he would cosponsor the Keep Families Together Act. The measure would prohibit federal agents from breaking up families unless such action would be in the child’s best interests or if the child was deemed a victim of human trafficking.
“As a father, grandfather, and Christian, I am wholeheartedly opposed to any policy that allows innocent children to be separated from their parents as they enter our country,” Manchin said in a press release.
Earlier this month, Manchin told MetroNews he favors stronger immigration policies, including building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re going to have a wall. We’re going to have to have more security. We’re going to have to have better control over our points of entry,” he said.
Manchin reiterated that support Monday yet added removing children from their parents was made is not required by law.
“I am actively working with my Republican colleagues to find solutions to the issues that are not addressed in the Keep Families Together Act,” he said, “and I continue to believe that the comprehensive 2013 immigration bill that included 700 miles of fencing, an addition 20,000 border control agents and other measures to secure our border is where we should begin this process.”
All members of the Senate Democratic Caucus — 49 lawmakers — are cosponsoring the bill, with Manchin the final member to announce his support.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on two immigration bills, although both measures face an uncertain future in that chamber.