White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday maintained that Congress should tie an effort to end migrant family separation to a host of controversial and complex immigration issues, rather than simply ending the process immediately.
“We want to fix the entire system, we don’t want to just tinker with it,” she said, asked if the White House would support a standalone bill focused only on ending family separation.
The recent spike in migrant family separations on the border is the result of an April memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to U.S. attorneys, telling them to institute a “zero tolerance” policy for prosecuting people apprehended at the border. Minors cannot be held with their parents in criminal detention, so they are treated as “unaccompanied alien children” when their parents are placed in criminal proceedings.
Sessions or Trump could end that new policy immediately, but they so far have not budged.
At a White House press briefing Monday, the Daily Mail’s Francesca Chambers asked: “If the administration is, as it says, not using the children as pawns in this situation, then why not just have Congress pass legislation that narrowly deals with the family separation issue and sign it and then deal with the other aspects of the immigration system that the President wants overhauled at a different time?”
“Once again, we want to fix the entire system,” Sanders responded. “We don’t want to just tinker with it. The President is tired of watching people kick it down the road and not take responsibility and not fix the problems that we have.”
“We’re dealing with this particular situation right now,” Chambers said, contrasting family separations with longer-term immigration reform efforts.
“We’re dealing with a number of situations,” Sanders said. “That is not the only one. We have people flooding over the borders.”
She added: “We want to fix the whole thing. We don’t want to just tinker with one part it. This is a broken system and we’ve got to quit ignoring it. Just ignoring the rule doesn’t fix it, and that’s what this administration is actually trying to do.”