News & Politics

Democrats Vow to Block GOP Border Bill: Trump 'Can Do It With His Own Pen'

Immigrants recently processed and released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection wait at the the Catholic Charities RGV, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Democrats are reportedly set to vote against the Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) Protect Kids and Parent Act, a bill that would bring an end the emotional immigration crisis that’s playing out at our southern border.

“There are so many obstacles to legislation and when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) told The Hill. “Legislation is not the way to go here when it’s so easy for the president to sign it.”

“How many times has immigration legislation passed in this Congress? How many times?” Schumer added. “Zero. It’s an excuse from our Republican colleagues who feel the heat, don’t want to attack the president, even though they know, they know legislation will take a very long time and is unlikely to happen, and the flick of a president’s pen could solve this tomorrow.”

Schumer said that his aim is to keep the focus on Trump.  “Again, the president can change it with his pen,” he said, warning that the Republicans would try to add a “poison pill” at the last minute.

“Unacceptable additions have bogged down every piece of legislation we’ve done,” he said.

The GOP bill has the following provisions to address the crisis at the border:

• Double the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.

• Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together.

• Mandate that illegal immigrant families must be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.

• Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that—within 14 days—those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Monday that a legislative solution is needed. “Congress alone can fix it,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed on Tuesday, saying, “I support, and all of the senators of the Republican conference support, a plan that keeps families together.” He added, “We need to fix the problem and it requires a legislative solution.”

Democrat opposition to this bill would be funny if it weren’t so sad. I’m old enough to remember when Dems blew an artery over Trump signing an executive order related to immigration. Now they’re back to Obama’s “pen and a phone” trick. Don’t be fooled. Democrats need the crisis on the border to continue through the midterms because they’ve got nothing else. If it means families can’t stay together, well, so be it. It’s for the greater good — and never let a crisis go to waste while you’re at it.

Trump needs to do more of what he did today to sell this bill to the American people. Carpet bomb the airways with Republicans begging Democrats to help the suffering children. McConnell says his caucus is unified on this bill and all that’s standing in the way are obstructionists Democrats who will settle for nothing less than the abolition of ICE. (And I’m not even sure they’d agree to that at this point, entrenched as they are in their hysterical desire to beat the president.)

UPDATE 3:29 p.m. EST: President Trump gave Schumer what he wanted, signing an executive order designed to address the border crisis. Though it’s not clear exactly what’s contained in the order, it is reportedly aimed at keeping families together, while keeping the “zero tolerance” policy in place. The Trump administration says it is intended as a stop-gap measure until Congress can get its act together, however, now that Trump has taken the wind out of the crisis’ sails, Democrats have no real incentive to work with Republicans on a legislative solution. Now that the immediate problem has been alleviated, we’ll likely go back to business as usual. Cue: more posturing and grandstanding with no real solution.

UPDATE 3:55 p.m. EST: The White House has released the executive order.  (Read it here.) It essentially has all of the provisions of the Cruz bill with a lot of “to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations” statements thrown in. It reads, in part:

(e)  The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions, CV 85-4544 (“Flores settlement”), in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.

It’s not clear whether a legislative solution is now off the tables. There’s no way the Democrats will vote for it now that Trump has handed them what they were demanding.

I don’t agree with the way it was done, but it’s a good thing for the innocent children involved.

This is a quickly evolving story. Stay tuned to PJM for updates as they become available.