The White House is considering executive action to allow children to stay with parents caught crossing the border illegally, Fox News has learned -- a step that could avoid the family separations that have triggered a national outcry and political crisis for Republicans.
The action under consideration would allow children to stay in detention with parents for an extended period of time. This comes as congressional Republicans scramble to draft legislation to address the same issue, but face challenges mustering the votes.
The separations stem from the administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which aims to prosecute all illegal border crossers. But because of a 1997 order and related decisions, children cannot be detained for longer than 20 days with the adults.
Sources told Fox News that such an executive action by Trump could be seen to run afoul of the 1997 order and would likely draw a lawsuit. But the White House wants to try to take steps to uphold the enforcement of the law, while at the same time lessening the trauma of children being separated from their parents.
In another possible approach, Fox News is told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will recommend to Trump that he throw his support behind a standalone bill to close the “loopholes” regarding family detention. Nielsen will recommend that other immigration issues be handled in separate legislation.
The options are being explored following days of escalating calls from both sides of the political divide for Trump, or Congress, to end the controversial family separation policy.
Rep. Peter King of New York became the latest Republican to join the chorus on Wednesday when he called on Trump to suspend the family separation policy if House immigration legislation does not pass.
Speaking on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” King said that while he agrees with the president’s goals in regards to immigration, the current policy of separating migrant children from parents charged with entering the country illegally is “really terrible for families.”
Republicans in both the House and Senate are struggling to shield the party's lawmakers from the public outcry over images of children taken from migrant parents and held in cages at the border. But they are running up against Trump's shifting views on specifics and his determination, according to advisers, not to look soft on his signature immigration issue, the border wall.
“The Democrats do not have a strong policy,” King said on Fox News. “But at the same time we are playing into their hands by allowing this to happen.”
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