The official line from the Trump White House is that critics of the administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the border should simply change the law. The argument is indefensibly wrong: Donald Trump chose to implement a policy that separates these families, and he can change course at any time.
But Democrats have more or less accepted the challenge anyway, and have proposed specific legislation to prevent the Republican president from keeping his current policy in place. Vox highlighted the Senate Dems’ effort to pass the “Keep Families Together Act,” which was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
“Congress has a moral obligation to take a stand and say that families should not be forcibly separated,” Feinstein said in a statement. “To traumatize them further is unconscionable, and I hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to put an end to this immoral policy.”
The bill would only allow undocumented children to be separated from their parents if there is evidence of parents abusing the children or children being trafficked. Separation could only happen after consultation with a child welfare expert.
As of this minute, the proposal has 48 co-sponsors, which includes literally every member of the Senate Democratic conference except West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. [Update: see below]
So what’s the hold up? As Feinstein noted yesterday, “We’re making progress, but we still need Republicans to join.”
For all the talk today about Republican “discomfort” and “concern” over the president’s policy, no GOP senators have endorsed legislation that would require Trump to stop doing this – or proposed rival legislation of their own.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), generally seen as the most moderate of the Senate Republicans, at least by 2018 standards, has been critical of the Trump administration’s family-separation policy, but she announced yesterday that she considers the Feinstein bill “too broad.”
Collins said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” she prefers a comprehensive bill that fell short months ago – legislation that included funding for Trump’s border wall – which the White House opposes for not being far enough to the right.
All of which suggests Trump’s existing family-separation policy will continue until the president decides to stop doing this.
* Update: Just a few minutes after I published this, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin signed on as a co-sponsor. That means literally every member of the Senate Democratic conference supports the “Keep Families Together Act.”