“The president has told folks that in lieu of the laws being fixed, he wants to use the enforcement mechanisms that we have,” a White House official said. “The thinking in the building is to force people to the table.”
.. The president used a similar strategy last year as he sought to gain approval for his immigration demands by using the lure of protection for young immigrants brought to the United States as children. That effort, which ran counter to Trump’s earlier promise to sign a bipartisan bill protecting the young immigrants, foundered in Congress.
.. Some Republican immigration hard-liners, however, continue to hold out, saying they will not support any path to citizenship and do not support any accommodations to keep families together. “I don’t see a reason to spend the money doing that,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in an interview Friday. “And I don’t see how you do that without having a suite for every self-described family unit.”
.. The current policy resulted from a decision made in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute all migrants who cross the border, including those with young children. Those migrants had avoided detention during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Because of a 1997 court settlement that bars children from being imprisoned with parents, Justice Department officials now say they have no choice but to isolate the children.
.. “The previous administration wouldn’t prosecute illegal aliens who entered the country with children,” Sessions said Thursday in Fort Wayne, Ind., citing biblical advice to follow laws. “It was de facto open borders.”
.. Yet several key Trump administration officials support the family separation policy, including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and senior adviser Stephen Miller, a vocal supporter of stricter immigration laws.
.. “If they aren’t going to cooperate, we are going to look to utilize the laws as hard as we can,” said a second White House official.
.. Others have argued that the main benefit of the policy is deterrence. Miller has said internally that the child separations will bring the numbers down at the border
.. “The side effect of zero tolerance is that fewer people will come up illegally, and fewer minors would be put in danger,” said a third senior administration official. “What is more dangerous to a minor, the 4,000-mile journey to America or the short-term detention of their parents?”