FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz say federal immigration authorities can balance a zero-tolerance policy and compassion.
Both senators went to the Texas-Mexico border Friday to hold a roundtable discussion with immigration officials, religious and community leaders.
They also toured two detention facilities where they saw youngsters who were separated from their parents after they’re accused of crossing the border illegally.
The zero-tolerance policy that resulted in families being separated began this spring when the Trump administration decided it would no longer exempt from prosecution parents or legal guardians who illegally entered the country with their children for the first time, a misdemeanor charge called illegal entry.
But even after President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week that requires families be kept together, there’s still no definitive answer whether parents who cross the border with their children illegally for the first time will still face criminal charges.
Manuel Padilla, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol of the RGV Sector told a news conference, “Right now, we’re looking at what we’re going to do, right now we are going to keep the families together.”
The Department of Homeland Security said more than 2,300 youngsters were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.
CBS News quoted a source in the Department of Homeland Security that said that most of the children separated from their parents and who are still in the custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection should be reunited with their parents by the end of the day Friday.
But that doesn’t include those children now under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Under the Flores settlement in 1997, children are not allowed to be incarcerated, and even if they are kept with their parents, they are not allowed to be detained for more than 20 days.
Previously, those parents were processed through the civil immigration courts and were not separated from their children.
Senator Cruz said the president’s executive order was a first step. “I think the President listened to the concerns by me, Senator Cornyn, by Texans, and people across the country. The kids should stay with their families, and my hope isthat in the coming days and weeks, we will see Republicans and Democrats coming together.”
Cruz said he will meet with Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois to see if they will work with Republicans on an immigration bill.
Both Senators Cruz and Cornyn filed legislation this week that would require immigration authorities to keep families together at residential centers while their court cases are pending.
It also calls for hiring 200 new immigration judges and expediting court proceedings for children and families.
After their roundtable discussion, Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz said the government can’t go back to the current policy of allowing people to cross the border to be released into the U.S. and be trusted to show up in court.
Senator Cruz said, “The wrong solution would be a return to catch and release. the wrong solution would be an outcome that mandates that everyone coming illegaly has to be released. that would only encourage further illegal immigration which is not a good outcome.”
Senator Cornyn said, “Zero-tolerance means we enforce the laws on the books. If you don’t have a zero tolerance program, that means you have a tolerance program meaning you tolerate illegal immigration. Where we treat everyone humanely, where they’re detained, keeping families together, but have this policy of prosecuting people for violating laws on the border, I think we can actually accomplish both.”