Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is on record as having said that immigrant children and their parents should be housed under the same roof. But on Sunday, he said he believes that outcome is impossible to bring about.
Rubio told Face The Nation‘s that the government can’t hold immigrant families together because it doesn’t “have the capacity.”
After Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy, which means anyone detained at the border is referred for criminal prosecution, received fierce public criticism, lawmakers and civil rights groups pressured the administration to do something about the separation of families that happened as a result.
The president signed an executive order to end his own policy in June. Then a federal judge gave the government a few weeks to reunite families. Officials already failed to meet the first deadline to reunite all of the children under the age of 5 with their families and now the government face the deadline of July 26 to reunite children between 5 and 17 with their families.
Rubio said the administration is “doing the best they can” to meet this deadline but added, “We don’t have hundreds of facilities designed to hold families, which is one of the challenges in doing this, and one of things I’ve pointed to. So I think they are doing the best they can with those limitations, and hopefully they’ll get as many of those families together as possible.”
When moderator Margaret Brennan asked what would happen if the administration doesn’t meet this deadline, Rubio said, “Obviously we’ve got that court mandate that would require them potentially to allow people to go free and as a result of it, but again my hope is to reunite as many of these families as possible because I do believe we need to enforce our laws. I also believe we need to do so in a way that is true to our values as a nation.”
On the same day the Trump administration missed its first deadline to reunite all of the children with their families, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar appeared on CNN and defended the policy. Azar said, “It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has also asked that immigrant parents pay for their own DNA tests, which are done by a private contractor on behalf of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, to be reunited with their children.
Immigration experts and lawyers say that the best solution is to keep immigrant families together and out of detention centers, where conditions are poor and people face subpar medical care.
“If we’re talking about getting these kids out of custody, the solution is not keeping them in custody with their parents,” Kara Lynum, immigration attorney and owner of Lynum Law Office told ThinkProgress in June, “The solution is saying both mom and dad and child can go fight their case in non-detention. The solution is not family detention. The solution is a notice to appear at a court date in the future and they’re on their way.”