Sen. Lisa Murkowski is calling on the Trump administration to stop separating children from their parents when families are caught crossing the southern border.
“The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families,” Murkowski wrote in a statement issued Monday afternoon. She also said she’s “troubled” that asylum seekers are turned away before they have a chance to file their papers.
Murkowski urged the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to change its policies “today.” If the administration does not act quickly, she said Congress should step in.
As criticism has intensified over the family separations, the Trump Administration has blamed Democrats and lawmakers. Speaking at a White House press briefing on Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen argued with reporters about who is responsible for changing the new “zero tolerance” policy, which gave rise to the family separations when the parents were sent to jail.
“Congress could fix this tomorrow,” Nielsen said.
On Sunday, both of Alaska’s U.S. senators posted Father’s Day messages on Facebook that drew a flood of comments from people demanding they speak out against the family separations. Some also asked that they support a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would halt the practice.
Sen. Dan Sullivan issued his first statement on the issue Monday. He did not directly criticize the administration or its policy, though he said the government’s “default position” should be to keep families together whenever possible.
“Nevertheless, this is a complicated issue that needs a bipartisan approach to keep kids with their parents, while at the same time ending the catch and release policy of the previous administration that encouraged further illegal immigration, and worse, trafficking of children,” Sullivan said.
(Washington Post fact-checkers looked into assertions that “catch and release” is a Democratic policy. They found it to be mostly false.)
Like Nielsen, he called for congressional solutions. Sullivan also called for more funding for immigration judges and new facilities so parents and kids can stay together.
Compared to a statement she made last week in response to a reporter’s question, Murkowski’s latest stance is more pointed and urgent. She said last week she had “concerns” about taking young children from their parents for an indefinite period.
A spokeswoman for Don Young said last week the congressman believes detaining people who cross illegally is important to border security but thinks there are solutions that can keep families together. She said Young looks forward to considering a bill that allows for family unity.