LIMA — The controversial “zero-tolerance” policy instituted by President Donald Trump’s administration that resulted in 2,300 children being separated from their parents at the border had Congress chomping at the bit to take action.
But as last week came to a close, few legislative actions have made legitimate headway against the issue except for Trump’s executive order that reversed family separations.
As for the region’s national representatives, reactions to the pressure caused by public sentiment widely differed.
Reactions by both of the senators representing Ohio fell mostly along party lines.
Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown joined his party at the start of the week backing the Keep Families Together Act originally introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) two weeks ago. Brown spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday.
“I’m glad the president is reversing course and signing something putting a stop to his administration’s cruel, pointless, and heartless policy of separating children from their parents at the border. But that’s just the beginning of the work that needs to be done to undo the damage this policy has inflicted on these children, and to create a more human immigration solution,” Brown said on the Senate floor. “Of course we know we have a lot of work to do to fix our broken immigration system. But tearing families apart won’t solve anything. We need to come together and work on a bipartisan solution that recognizes we aren’t going to deport 13 million people here already, but we can secure our borders and create a pathway for people to earn citizenship if they follow the law, have a job and pay taxes.”
Sen. Rob Portman, like many other Republican senators, opposed Trump’s original policy of separating families at the border, but also like other Republican senators, he avoided supporting Feinstein’s bill and stood behind the Republican bill – a similarly named but different “Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act.” Portman spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about his position.
“I believe we can have strong border security without separating families at the border. I believe we can enforce our nation’s laws, and we should, while remaining true to our values. “ Portman said. “Children should be kept in a safe, caring environment with their parents while immigration officials quickly assess each family’s individual immigration case. That’s the best solution. Beyond the moral argument for halting this policy, by the way, the logistics of separating families is just not practical.
“I commend the administration for the executive order yesterday that keeps families together. That’s a positive first step, but we’ve got to go further. Because of the Flores decision we talked about earlier, which is again a settlement made back in 1997, Congress is going to have to step in as well.”
U.S. House of Representatives
The House has been working to rework immigration policy for the last year now, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) has been at the forefront of that work. Just this past month, Jordan and the Freedom Caucus were major players in sinking the House’s farm bill for a shot to vote on a highly-conservative immigration bill, the Goodlatte Bill, named after House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte.
Jordan succeeded in getting that vote on the Goodlatte Bill this past week, but the vote went nowhere. It was defeated Thursday 193-231. Both Jordan and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) voted in favor.
The House Farm Bill that the Freedom Caucus originally voted down, however, got a second chance at passage. It was approved by a staggeringly close 213-211 roll call vote, again, with both Jordan and Latta in the affirmative. The Senate version of the farm bill has yet to be voted upon, and if it moves forward, the two farm bills will have to be reconciled by Congressional leadership before final approval.
The House does have a second immigration bill on the docket, informally known as the immigration compromise bill, waiting for a chance on the floor. House leadership had scheduled a vote on the comprimise bill for this past week, but it had been pushed forward to next week Thursday due to a need to hammer out a few more sections.
During an interview with CNN, Jordan said he would not vote for the compromise bill.
Friday morning, Trump tweeted: “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!”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.