Rep. Mike McCaul said on Sunday that while he is optimistic that a so-called consensus bill on immigration can be passed next week, the biggest issue that needs to be addressed immediately is the separation of migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“At minimum, we have to deal with the family situation,” McCaul, R-Texas, who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace. “It’s inhumane.”
McCaul added that he believes the updated immigration legislation will pass in the House next week. GOP leaders abruptly pulled a compromise immigration bill from consideration on Thursday amid concerns that it would not garner broad Republican support.
The updated bill that will be considered this week will include requirements that employers use E-Verify to check the legal status of their workers, but would make citizenship a possibility for Dreamer immigrants -- those brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents as children. It would also finance Trump's aspirational $25 billion wall with Mexico and curb government agencies from wrenching migrant children from detained parents.
The measure is the product of weeks of bargaining between party conservatives and moderates. Even so, the two GOP factions have been unable to resolve their final differences and vote-counters have yet to round up a majority. Republicans are getting no help from Democrats, who uniformly oppose the legislation.
The GOP divisions come at a bad time for the party: Elections are approaching and immigration has riveted public attention for months. Republicans who are battling to retain House control have hoped to focus this fall's campaigns on the economy and tax cuts.
More importantly, wavering Republicans want Trump to provide political cover for immigration legislation that's despised by hard-right voters. His recent statements on their bill and history of abruptly flip-flopping on past health care and spending measures have not been reassuring.
Last Tuesday, Trump privately told House Republicans that he backed their legislation "1,000 percent" and would protect them during their campaigns, lawmakers said. By Friday, he was tweeting that "Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration" and wait until after the November elections, when he said the GOP would approve tougher legislation because it will gain strength in Congress.
McCaul on Sunday was quick to defend the president when questioned about the hurdles of getting an immigration bill passed.
“To set forth a policy and have to reverse it is never good,” McCaul said of Trump’s executive action aimed at keeping families together when they are detained for illegally crossing the border. He added: “But I wouldn’t blame the administration; I would blame the United States Congress.”
Even if McCaul can garner enough Republican votes to pass the immigration legislation through the House, it is seen as unlikely to get past a filibuster in the Senate.
Former Homeland Security Secretary under President Obama, Jeh Johnson, said on "Fox News Sunday" that curbing the flow of women and children coming across the U.S. border illegally is something that will not happen overnight and the country needs to address the root cause of the problem.
“This is a problem that is international in scope,” Johnson said, noting that the rampant poverty and violence in Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are the reasons so many people come illegally to the U.S. He added that investing in those countries as well as working with other, more stable nations in the region – Panama, Costa Rica and Belize, for example – could help stem the tide of migrants.
“There are no easy fixes to this problem and Washington is bad at looking for long-term solutions,” Johnson said. “But this is not an easy problem and that is why we need to invest in a long-term solution.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.