The White House strategy for handling the family separation backlash has mostly been to blame lawmakers. Earlier this week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters, falsely, that Congress created the problem and that “only Congress can fix it.” Two days later, the administration titled the executive order Trump signed to keep families together “Affording Congress An Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” House Republicans have responded with a frantic effort to pass an immigration bill that would satisfy the president’s demands. As they’ve worked to come to an agreement, Trump hasn’t done much other than tweet about it. On Friday morning, the president came in hot before quickly fizzling out, ultimately telling GOP lawmakers to just go ahead and give up.
“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump wrote before tweeting his support for a number of Republican candidates.
Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
Though Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the failure to pass legislation, it’s the Republican members of the Republican-controlled House who have so far been unable to agree on a bill. In what was supposed to be an effort to move the process along, the president met with GOP members of Congress Tuesday night. Instead of addressing the specifics of the proposed legislation, Trump waxed on a number of unrelated subjects, including the failure of Trump critic Mark Sanford to win South Carolina’s GOP primary. Lawmakers reportedly left the meeting unsure whether Trump supported a proposed hardline immigration bill or another more moderate one. Instead, the president only managed to express general support for the effort. “I’m with you 1,000 percent,” Trump said. “I will not leave you in the wilderness.”
“I love you people,” the president added.
On Thursday, two days after he had given House Republicans his unequivocal support, Trump reversed course on Twitter, wondering why they should even bother crafting an immigration bill if it was unlikely to pass in the Senate. Later that day, efforts to pass the hardline version of the bill failed, and Republicans announced that a vote on the more moderate version – which has been opposed by the more conservative members of the House – would be delayed until next week. On Thursday night, Trump reportedly called Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who authored both of the proposed bills, to affirm his support for the moderate version. “Tell them I need the second immigration bill passed,” Trump told Goodlatte.
Hours later, Trump called for House Republicans to flat-out abandon efforts to come to a resolution, causing even more confusion over an issue that has vexed lawmakers since the White House ratcheted up pressure on Congress to solve the problem. Without support from the president, it will be all but impossible for lawmakers to pass the moderate bill they had planned to vote on next week. House Speaker Paul Ryan had “no immediate comment” about how the House would proceed in light of Trump’s Friday morning tweet, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the border remains in a state of chaos as officials have struggled to implement what was laid out in Trump’s executive order. It’s unclear how long the government is able to detain families, where exactly they should be housed and what efforts are being made to reunite those separated since the “zero tolerance” policy took effect. On Thursday, a senior Customs and Border Protection official told the Washington Post that they were no longer prosecuting parents who crossed the border with children. The Department of Justice later said that prosecutions would continue.
Also uncertain is the fate of the more than 2,300 children who have been separated from their parents. Efforts have been made to reunite migrant parents with the children who were taken from them, but this has proved difficult, as the whereabouts of many of the children are now unknown. The White House has been unable to offer anything substantive on how they plan to remedy the situation. “It’s just a total labyrinth,” an attorney looking to reunite the separated families told the Post.
With the future of an immigration bill now looking dire, it seems that the administration has entertained the possibility of resuming the separation of children and parents at the border. On Thursday night, DHS Secretary Nielsen allegedly said as much to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.
Secretary Nielsen privately told lawmakers the Administration may go back to separating children from their parents. Congress must ensure that NEVER happens. I’m urging the House Appropriations Committee to prevent funds from ever being used to separate families entering the US: pic.twitter.com/JzZu58AUOf
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 21, 2018
This could all be averted if the Trump administration would simply rescind the “zero tolerance” policy that led to this crisis in the first place. That isn’t likely to happen, though, because Trump wants a $25 billion border wall among other measures that would make it more difficult for people to immigrate to the United States, legally or illegally. The executive order was nothing more than a half-baked attempt to force the issue, and almost certainly had nothing to do with a desire to prevent families from being separated, which the administration willfully enabled when they instituted the “zero tolerance” policy in May.
Though Trump spoke of how “important” it was to reunite families while signing the executive order, on Friday he reversed course on this issue, as well, tweeting about the “phony stories of sadness and grief” that have been reported from the border.
We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
So much for compassion.