Divided by infighting, U.S. Congress struggles on immigration

 Divided by infighting, U.S. Congress struggles on immigration

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, riddled by factional infighting, looks unlikely to act decisively this week on the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, providing few answers on what comes next for separated parents and children.

President Donald Trump's abrupt order last week to end his policy of breaking up families at the border failed to explain how his aggressive policies on illegal immigration could be adjusted to keep families intact, house them and assess their legal status.

The Republican president backtracked amid mounting global outrage, including over images of children in cages. He at first urged Congress to act quickly and follow up his order with immigration legislation, then said lawmakers should give up on it.

Despite Trump's mixed messages, the House of Representatives was on track to vote on Wednesday on a broad-based immigration bill that would bar the separation of migrant children from their parents. The measure was widely expected to fail.

"We address this in the bill we're bringing to the floor Wednesday. We've made it extremely clear we want to keep families together and we want to secure the border and enforce our laws," House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference.

He said he would not rule out the possibility of bringing a vote on a narrower bill addressing only the detention of immigrant families, if the broader bill did not pass.

Ryan described the broader bill as one that sought to mend the "broken immigration system" by resolving the issue of young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children; focusing on a merit-based immigration system; and securing U.S. borders and the rule of law.

Several House conservatives left a closed-door meeting of Republicans early on Tuesday expressing discontent with the broad bill that Ryan wants to debate on Wednesday. Without their support, the measure likely would be rejected by the House.

Republican Representative Scott DesJarlais, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus faction, said he would not vote for the broad bill. A separate conservative-backed immigration bill failed to pass the House last week.

The family separations began because of the administration's two-month-old policy of seeking to prosecute all adults who cross the border illegally, including those traveling with children.

Although the administration has said this "zero tolerance" policy remains in place, officials said on Monday that parents who cross illegally with their children will not face prosecution, for the time being, because the government is running short of space to house them.

Before Trump issued his order, more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents. The government has yet to reunite about 2,000 children with their parents.

The order also did not say how the government will house families kept together while parents are prosecuted.

(Reporting by Richard Cohen; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Susan Cornwell; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Eric Walsh; Editing by Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date: Jun 27, 2018 00:07:27 IST