CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In response to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s support of a bill to end a policy dividing families entering the country illegally, Manchin’s Republican opponent for Senate, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, said Tuesday that legislation would benefit drug dealers and those involved in human trafficking.
Manchin, D-W.Va., announced Monday he is cosponsoring the Keep Families Together Act, which would prohibit government officials from removing a child from their parent or legal guardian unless it was in the child’s best interest or if it was determined the child was a victim of human trafficking.
The bill is a response to an April order from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which directs the prosecution of immigrants who illegally enter the United States. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents as a result of the “zero tolerance” policy.
Morrisey said in a press release Manchin is joining “radical liberals” in Washington to push an agenda that allows people to circumvent legal methods of immigration.
“Of course there should be steps taken to keep families together in a humane way at the border, and Congress must change the laws to make that happen,” he said. “This does not excuse Joe Manchin joining with liberals in Washington to reinstate the dangerous catch and release, open-border policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the Keep Families Together Act on June 7. Since then, the other 48 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have announced their support as cosponsors. Manchin was the final caucus member to come out in favor of the bill.
“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 Monday. “We need to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws, which is why I have voted multiple times on billions of dollars in border security, including a wall on our southern border. However, no law requires pulling children from the arms of their parents.”
Morrisey said Manchin’s support is evidence West Virginia needs a senator with a stronger stance on border security.
“Not only does this partisan proposal that Manchin has signed give special privileges to illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, and child-traffickers, it will encourage the use of vulnerable children as shields to illegally cross the border in greater numbers,” the attorney general said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Monday while she favors increasing border security, there is bipartisan agreement that something must be done in response to the Trump administration’s policy.
“We want to make sure the children, through no fault of their own, have the care that they need and deserve, and I think we’ve come up short there,” she said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.
Morrisey attended a lunch at the U.S. Capitol among Senate Republicans as Capito’s guest, as confirmed by Nathan Brand, communications director for the Morrisey campaign.
Capito and Manchin also participated in Tuesday’s meeting of the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee. The body approved the Department of Homeland Security’s annual spending bill; Capito — the subcommittee’s chairwoman — and Manchin voted in favor.
The bill includes funding the construction of 65 miles of a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, as requested by President Donald Trump in his original budget proposal.