Republican congressional representatives from Washington came out against the policy of separating migrant families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border — but avoided direct criticism of President Trump, whose administration launched the policy.
Washington’s Republican congressional representatives — and some candidates — joined Democrats this week in decrying the policy of forcibly separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But their comparatively muted public statements largely avoided direct criticism of President Donald Trump, whose administration launched the separation policy as the president falsely asserted it was required by law.
Many of the Republican statements echoed Trump’s claims that Congress needed to act to halt the separations, which emerged as part of a “zero tolerance” crackdown on illegal border crossings.
Facing a national backlash, President Trump retreated on Wednesday, signing an executive order he said would stop his halt the practice, and instead detain parents and children together.
Among the state’s four Republican U.S. House members, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, offered the lengthiest comments, saying in a written statement earlier this week the administration “should stop the practice of separating families” on its own.
McMorris Rodgers added “President Trump has made it clear that Congress must make a formal policy change” and that “Congress can and should fix this by passing a law that clarifies separation shouldn’t happen when families are apprehended illegally crossing the border.” She also said she supports legislation to fund a border wall and change the legal immigration system to one that is “merit-based.”
She criticized former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who in a Fox News interview Tuesday mocked a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother at the border.
McMorris Rodgers is facing a tough re-election challenge this fall from former Democratic state Sen. Lisa Brown, who accused her opponent of trying to use children and families as political leverage for a border-security bill.
“Neither these kids nor our Dreamers should be used as a negotiating tool and their status and safety shouldn’t be traded for a border wall,” Brown said in a news release.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, who is retiring at the end of the year, issued a statement Wednesday morning referring back to his years as King County sheriff.
“I disagree with the president — separating young children from their loving parents is wrong,” Reichert said. “As a cop, I had to step in and remove children from their unsafe homes. I have seen it, I have done it, and it was unforgettable. And when I took those actions, it was to keep a child safe. I call on the president to put a stop to these policies at the border immediately; we must keep these families together.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, said in a statement that “family separation should not be U.S. policy” and that she was working with House leadership on legislation that “would fix multiple aspects of our nation’s broken immigration system” — including allowing minors to stay with parents who have been detained at the border.
Similarly, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, referred to the border separations as “one more broken piece of an immigration system that isn’t working for anyone, and another example that shows why reform is so desperately needed.”
In Washington’s closely watched 8th Congressional District race, Republican candidate Dino Rossi issued a written statement saying it “should not be U.S. policy to separate parents from their children.” He said Congress should “address this situation immediately” by passing legislation.
On Wednesday, Rossi added through a spokesman he was “glad that the White House announced this morning that it is drafting an executive order to cease family separations … Congress needs to act immediately to clarify that families should be kept together and our borders should be respected.”
Three rival Democrats vying to take on Rossi this fall put aside their differences for a rare united front on the separation policy, issuing a joint statement earlier this month in opposition to the family separations, and criticizing Republicans for staying silent for weeks on the issue.
“Unfortunately, our Washington state Republican-elected officials in Congress — and Dino Rossi — have stayed silent, refusing to put American values ahead of party loyalty,” wrote the candidates, Kim Schrier, Shannon Hader and Jason Rittereiser. “Our country is better than this.”
Rittereiser, an attorney, said on Tuesday he and his law firm would provide free legal representation to any federal employee refusing to carry out the Trump policy.
All of Washington’s Democratic U.S. House and Senate members have loudly condemned Trump and other Republicans for the policy that has put children in cages at the border.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, met earlier this month with 174 asylum-seeking women at the SeaTac federal prison. Many of the women had been separated from their children after being apprehended crossing the U.S. border.
“We must be clear: this administration is lying when they conflate immigrants coming across the border with MS-13 gangs. The women I met with are survivors, not perpetrators, of criminal violence in their home countries,” Jayapal wrote in a post on Medium after her visit. “They came to the United States because they believed it was a country where they would be treated with dignity and respect, but we’re failing them.”
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said her office has received more than 8,000 phone calls and emails opposing the border policy. In a news conference this week, she said “the moral hole that President Trump has been digging since the moment he declared his candidacy has reached a new low.”