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Here Are the Republicans Opposing Migrant Family Separation

A growing number of GOP legislators are breaking with the Trump administration’s policy

Activists protest against the policy of separating migrant children from their families on Monday in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Activists protest against the policy of separating migrant children from their families on Monday in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Legislators from both parties are raising their voices against the Trump administration policy separating undocumented migrant children from their parents when they cross the southern border.

The policy has garnered intense and unified Democratic opposition, with all 48 of the party’s senators endorsing a bill, proposed by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to reverse the policy. A growing number of Republicans also have come out against the current conditions on the border, while largely avoiding placing blame directly on President Donald Trump or his administration.

A nationwide poll released Monday shows public opinion of family separation on the border is somewhat split along partisan lines: While voters overall oppose the practice 2-1,  a majority of Republicans support it.

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Meanwhile, Trump is headed to the Hill Tuesday after sowing confusion on his support for GOP immigration bills.

Here are the Republican lawmakers who have expressed some form of opposition to the Trump administration’s policy or taken official action in response:

Rep. Ralph Abraham of Louisiana came out against the separation of families on the border in a statement Tuesday, which also echoed the White House talking point that illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes also “separate” American families.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said the Trump administration shuold “immediately” end the new immigration enforcement policy. “Illegal immigration is against the law but new enforcement policies have resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their parents.”

Alexander joined 11 other Republican senators in signing a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to halt the family separation policy while Congress works on a permanent legislative fix.

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash was one of the first members of Congress to denounce family separations, in May, saying that the government “shouldn’t forcibly separate a young child from a parent unless absolutely necessary” when the family is seeking asylum.

Arizona Sen. John Boozman and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy also signed the letter to Sessions urging the reversal of the family separation policy.

Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado said in a fiery statement Monday that “tearing children from the arms of of parents and then isolating them alone is antithetical to the America I grew up in,” and that “history won’t remember well those who support the continuation of this policy.”

Coffman indicated he would be open to supporting Feinstein’s bill or any other “reasonable options.”

Sen. Susan Collins denounced the separations Sunday in an interview with CBS. “What the administration has decided to do is … send a message that, if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said. “That is traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country.”

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee joined 11 senators in urging Attorney General Sessions to “halt” the administration’s policies leading to family separation while Congress works to deliver a lasting immigration fix.

The letter reads, in part, “We cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents.”

Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania said he is “deeply disturbed by children being separated from their parents.” In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the said the Trump administration “owns this policy and it is offensive that they are trying to shift blame to others.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz introduced “emergency legislation” Monday requiring border agents to detain families together in temporary shelters, ending unnecessary separations. Cruz offered the bill as an alternative to the Democratic bill, which he criticized as a “returning to the failed policy” of “catch and release” under past administrations.

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” Cruz said. “This must stop. Now.”

Rep. John Curtis of Utah said, “I do not believe that separating families is consistent with who we are as a country” in a statement released Monday.

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana followed the vocal opposition of his state’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester with a statement Monday criticizing the administration’s policy: “We need a solution that secures our borders, keeps families together and upholds the rule of law,” Daines said. “I believe we can do so without separating children from their parents as a default policy.”

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis told people in his district Monday that DHS should “absolutely not” be separating children from their parents on the southern border. He also criticized Democrats, saying it is “tragic” that “we are not getting any help from the Democrats” on an immigration bill set to be voted on in the House this week.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona joined Collins in writing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security raising concerns about the humanitarian impacts of separating families and noting “the well-being of young children is at stake.”

Flake also thanked former first lady Laura Bush in a tweet for her scathing critique of family separation in a Washington Post op-ed:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner signed a letter along with Corker and 10 other senators urging Attorney General Sessions to halt the current family separation policies.

Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte said through a spokesman that he finds it “troubling that any child is separated from his or her parents.” Gianforte “supports reforming the process to ensure children are safe, secure and taken care of,” according to his communications director, Travis Hall.

Rep. Kay Granger of Texas released a statement Tuesday afternoon seeking “a better way to secure our borders,” adding that the children being separated from their  parents “did not make the choice to cross the border and shouldn’t be punished for it.”

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassleytweeted that he wants to “stop the separation of families at the border” through Congressional action, but did not call on the Trump administration to end its current policy. 

Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation, said in a statement he was working with colleagues to “increase the number of family facilities at the border, so immigration officials can keep families together.”

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch released a cautiously worded criticism of the family separation policy, saying he “wholeheartedly agree[s] with the President’s comments that a policy that leads to separating children from their families is wrong.” Trump has criticized the policy while falsely claiming it was a Democratic policy required by law, rather than his own administration’s choice.

Hatch signed a letter to Sessions calling for a pause on family separations until Congress has time to pass a legislative fix.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada was one of 12 Republican senators who signed a letter to Attorney General Sessions urging him to reverse the family separation policy.

Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan said “what is happening at the border is heartbreaking” and committed to finding “a humane solution that ends automatic separations and keeps families together.”

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, who visited a temporary “tent city” for separated migrant children over the weekend, said family separation is a “terribly policy” and “we should not use children as a deterrent, plain and simple.”

New York Rep. Peter King said “the policy of taking kids from parents must be ended” while noting that asylum provisions are “too often abused.”

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in a tweet Tuesday “the practice of splitting children from their families must end … I’m alarmed by the reports & would support a stand alone to fix this issue now.”

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said, “I disagree with the administration’s policy of separating families.” He also swatted down the administration’s claims that the separation policy is required by federal immigration law, noting that the law “doesn’t have to be enforced this way due to prosecutorial discretion.”

New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondosaid Friday he supports a specific provision in a House immigration bill that would “prevent separation of parents [and] children at the border,” and hopes there is “strong bipartisan agreement to ensure it becomes law.”

Rep. Mia Love of Utah said the family separation policy is “horrible” and carries personal significance as the daughter of Haitian immigrants.

“You can see these children, these innocent children, being ripped from their families,” Love said. “It’s absolutely terrible.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain called family separation an “affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded.”

Like Lankford and others, McCain contradicted the administration’s claims that only Congress has the authority to rescind the policy.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said Tuesday afternoon he opposes the policy whereby “children are being forcibly separated from their parents.”

“Our country must make the well-being of these children a priority. We can find appropriate ways to secure our borders and deter illegal immigration in a moral way that honors our values as Americans,” Moran said in a tweet.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday afternoon called the separation of families at the border “cruel,” “tragic” and “not consistent with our values.”

“The thousands of children taken from their parents and families must be reunited as quickly as possible and treated humanely while immigration proceedings are pending.”

Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo said Tuesday afternoon that “there is no law requiring separation of families at the border,” contradicting one of the Trump administration’s talking points.

Palazzo said “there should be a solution” to the problem of migrant family separation but also said the situation has been “created by years of liberal policies that lead illegal immigrants to believe they can freely stroll through our borders.”

Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin told a woman recording him in an airport Tuesday that “we want children to stay with their parents.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday the Trump administration “should change course immediately and keep families together while their cases are expedited.” If it doesn’t, Portman said “Congress should act quickly on a legislative solution and I’m working with my colleagues to do so.”

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas tweeted Monday that he supports “enforcing our immigration laws” but is “against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration.”

“My concern, first and foremost, is the protection of the children,” Roberts said.

Retiring Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinentweeted Monday that “President Trump has chosen to implement this policy and he can put an end to it but he chooses not to do so and instead blames others.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters Monday “we don’t want kids separated from their parents,” but did not call on the administration to rescind the policy. He echoed the White House message that ending family separation requires congressional action, a point contested by some of his Republican colleagues.

Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois was one of the first Republicans to condemn the policy, urging the DOJ and DHS to reverse the policy in a statement released last Thursday.

“The events unfolding at our nation’s borders are heartbreaking. Being forcibly separated from a child is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Roskam said. “While I believe we have a responsibility to secure our borders, I also believe that how we treat strangers reflects the moral values this country was founded on.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that “detaining parents is cruel because it separates families.” He advocated Congress passing a law, co-written with Texas Sen. John Cornyn, that would allow DHS to hold families together rather than separating or releasing them.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska condemned the separation policy as “wicked” in a lengthy Facebook post Monday morning. He also firmly placed blame on the Trump administration: “The administration’s decision to separate families is a new, discretionary choice.”

Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona said “I can’t see ever breaking up a family unit,” and “I believe the policy needs to be changed.”

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Tuesday afternoon he “[does] not support a policy of categorically separating children from their parents at the border.” Scott called on Congress to find a solution, adding “we can and must do better.”

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said “the policy of separating families at the U.S. border is wrong and needs to be immediately reversed” in a statement released last Friday.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said in a tweet Monday “we should not be separating children migrants from their families.” He added that Congress can “take action to provide better long-term certainty and consistency” on the immigration issue.

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton said in a statement on the family separation policy Monday that it is “time for this ugly and inhumane practice to end. Now.”

Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indianasaid the policy “fails to live up to our American ideals of respect and human dignity.”

Rep. Mimi Walters of California said, “as a mother, I strongly oppose the separation of children from their parents at the border.”

“This action does not reflect our Nation’s values and I will support efforts to stop this practice. We can strengthen our borders while keeping families together,” Walters said.

Rep. Kevin Yoder demanded Attorney General Jeff Sessions “halt the practice of family separation immediately” in a statement Monday. He said being separated from the parents “takes a lasting, and sometimes even irreversible toll on the child’s well being.”

Iowa Rep. David Young  of Kansas has said Congress should act to keep migrant families together. “Iowans sent me to Congress to represent their values and those don’t include separating families at the border,” Young tweeted Tuesday.

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