Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she opposes the Trump administration policy that has separated at least 2,000 immigrant children from their parents at the Mexico border, but that she is not on board with a Democratic bill that would force the administration to abandon a policy that has produced widespread condemnation.
Collins’ position contrasts with independent U.S. Sen. Angus King. While both senators are condemning the Trump administration policy that was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, King supports Senate and House versions of the Keep Families Together Act, a proposal that would force the administration to end the separation policy.
The proposal has garnered support from Democrats, but so far, no Republicans.
In a Sunday interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Collins said the Democratic proposal was overly broad and “would essentially prevent arrest within 100 miles of the border, even if the person has committed a serious crime or is suspected of terrorist activities.”
Collins said the better path would be try again to pass the bipartisan immigration bill that failed to move forward after a procedural vote in February.
Collins said the proposal might have passed if not for a “inflammatory news release” sent by Department of Homeland Security the night before the vote. She said the release “torpedoed the bill.”
“We should not give up,” Collins said on “Face the Nation.” “We need to fix our immigration laws, and using children is not the answer.”
Collins also called on the administration to terminate the practice of separating children from parents who enter the country seeking asylum at legal crossings unless they are abused. She and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake have written to the administration to request more information about the effects of the separation policy.
Collins also suggested that the number of children separated from their parents could be higher than Homeland Security has reported.
“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” Collins said. “That’s traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”
King has described the policy in similar terms. In a tweet sent last week, King said, “I can’t imagine anything more wrong, or less American, than separating a mother and her baby.”
King and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree have both signed onto the proposal that would end the separation policy, while Collins and Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin are backing a comprehensive immigration overhaul, a pursuit that has sharply divided Republican members of Congress.
The House is expected to take votes on two competing proposals, among them a hardline bill that is not expected to pass. The other bill, which funds the president’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and includes a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, is touted as a compromise between moderate and more conservative members of the GOP.
Last week, President Donald Trump said he wouldn’t sign either bill, a declaration that cast doubt over passage of either proposal.
On Monday, the president also falsely asserted that the separation policy is the result of a law previously passed by Democrats in Congress. The policy is not a law, and it was instituted as a directive by Sessions on April 6.
The president also appeared to defend the policy by claiming on Twitter that children are being used by some of the “worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.
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