Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Deal to fix family separations hits a dead end in the Senate

Hopes of reaching a deal to help migrant parents and children separated along the U.S.-Mexico border appear to be fading in the Senate.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) and GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) were tasked with trying to draft a compromise on legislation dealing with immigrant families detained at the border in the wake of the president’s zero tolerance policies.

However, this week the negotiations have turning into public finger pointing, with senators on both sides passing the blame. For instance, Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, yesterday declared prospects of a deal dead; “It sounds to me like Senator Feinstein has basically broken off discussions. [She wants] to do comprehensive immigration reform, which is basically a kiss of death to this targeted effort for families,” Cornyn told The Hill.

The Senate negotiations are Congress’s best chance of crafting legislation that could address when and how immigrant families should be detained. But they appear to have derailed over two issues: What to do about the Flores settlement, which places restrictions on how long children can be detained, and alternatives to detaining families together potentially indefinitely.

As part of the executive order signed last month by Trump, the administration is asking the courts to alter the decades-old agreement, which has determined to bar the detention of most immigrant children at 20 days. Lawmakers have pitched several bills since last month on how to handle separated immigrant families — but so far none of them have been bipartisan.

A spokesperson for Feinstein said on Wednesday that negotiations continue among the four senators, but that they have yet reached a deal; “Senator Feinstein is continuing to talk with Senators Durbin, Cruz and Tillis and hopes to come to agreement on a narrow bill to permanently bar children from being taken from their parents,” the spokesperson said.

THE HILL