U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said President Donald Trump’s move Wednesday to sign an executive order keeping families together at the border is a good political tactic but will take away some of the urgency needed for a congressional fix.
In issuing the order, Trump said the administration would continue to “rigorously enforce” immigration laws, but that families can be kept together in detention centers while their cases are being handled.
The separation of families at the border has erupted into a political controversy, leading to a scramble in Congress to try to deal with it.
In a conference call with Iowa reporters, Grassley said the order helps politically, “but I think he’s taken the heat off of Congress to act, and if Congress doesn’t act, tomorrow he can go back and change his mind.”
Grassley says a more permanent fix would be to repeal a 1997 court settlement dealing with how minors in the custody of immigration authorities are dealt with.
Wednesday, he and other Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced legislation that would keep families together, along with setting standards for care at centers where families are being kept.
Democrats have a rival proposal that also would stop families from being separated.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the president’s executive order was “doubling down” on the administration’s zero tolerance policy, and any attempt to undermine the 1997 consent decree — which prohibits indefinite detention of children “even with their families” — would lead to a court fight.
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Grassley has said the Democrats’ approach led to a “catch and release” system under President Barack Obama, as immigrants did not show up for proceedings.