House Leadership Is About to Introduce a Family-Separations Bill

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Ahead of a vote on immigration reform this week, House Republican leaders are planning to file a narrow bill on Tuesday addressing the separation of immigrant families along the border.

According to a senior White House official and two House Republican sources with direct knowledge of the matter, leadership is planning to file a standalone measure addressing the family-separation crisis this evening. It’s a sign that leadership anticipates its so-called “compromise” immigration legislation—which also tackles family separations—will fail. As recently as Tuesday morning, top Republicans maintained the line that they wouldn’t formally move ahead with a standalone bill until the fate of comprehensive reform was determined.

None of the sources would elaborate upon precisely what the bill will look like. A House Republican member familiar with the plan said the legislation will likely be a simple fix overturning a decree that prohibits undocumented children from being detained for longer than 20 days. Doing so would allow officials to detain families together indefinitely.

One of the sources cautioned, however, that this timeline is subject to change, given ongoing negotiations.

Asked whether the bill will be filed Tuesday night, AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan, said, “I would refer to the speaker’s comments on timing and don’t have anything to add at this time.”

Republicans across the conference have expressed their support for a narrow provision to tackle the issue of family separations. But on Tuesday morning, Ryan declined to confirm that such a standalone bill was forthcoming, telling reporters that the leadership would “cross that bridge” should their so-called “compromise” immigration bill—which includes funding for a border wall and a special pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients—go down this week. “The last thing I want to do is undercut a vote on what is a great consensus bill,” he added.

Calling the bill a “consensus,” however, is a stretch. GOP leadership spent Tuesday scrambling to sell conservatives on an amendment that includes E-Verify, which requires businesses to confirm the legal status of their employees. It’s a provision that many conservatives last week argued was necessary for their votes. Yet there is little evidence that inclusion of the amendment has swayed a meaningful number of lawmakers.

Centrist members suggested after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that the conservative House Freedom Caucus was to blame for the stalemate. California representative David Valadao told reporters that the group’s chairman, Mark Meadows, “doesn’t have a reputation of following through” on his agreements.

A Meadows aide, however, told me there was no such agreement on conservative votes in exchange for E-Verify’s inclusion. Centrist members, the aide said, “pressured [Meadows] to commit to supporting the bill if we fixed E-Verify, and he flatly told them no.”

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