MT congressional delegation differs on border-crackdown controversy

Posted at 12:38 PM, Jun 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-20 14:38:04-04

The two Republicans in Montana’s congressional delegation – Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte – told MTN News this week they were mostly standing behind President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border.

“He announced a zero-tolerance policy; it’s taking a strong stance to secure our borders,” Daines told MTN News Tuesday. “I agree with him in doing that; that’s the right thing to do to secure our Southern border.”

However, Daines and Gianforte said they opposed the separation of immigrant children from parents or guardians at the border, and that legislation before Congress can solve the problem.

“Now we need to keep that family unit together and quickly adjudicate their case through the system, and determine whether or not their asylum claim is legitimate or not,” said Daines, who is behind a Republican bill to add more judges to speed the process.

President Trump announced Wednesday that he would end the practice of separating migrant families crossing the U.S. border.  

The delegation’s only Democrat, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, had denounced the Trump administration’s actions of charging more immigrants with illegally entering the country and thus separating them from any children in their care.

“A deterrent where you rip kids away from their parents is not acceptable,” he said in an interview over the weekend. “We’ve got to figure out a better way than this. This is not something we should be doing as a nation.”

He also has signed onto a Democratic bill in the U.S. Senate to stop the practice and is supporting expanded funding for border security.

Gianforte said the House will vote this week on two immigration-reform bills, but declined to say which one he supports. The website Politico reported Wednesday that both of the bills may fail.

Gianforte said he supports what he called the “four pillars” of immigration reform as laid out by President Trump: Securing the borders, ending visa “lotteries” in favor of a merit-based visa, ending so-called “chain migration” that allows some family members of immigrants to enter the country, and resolving the fate of “Dreamers,” who are adults brought to the country as children illegally.

“We need to look at immigration comprehensively,” he said.

Gianforte also said defended Trump’s crackdown, saying the administration is enforcing the law and putting pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform.

Daines said he expects to support a bill being developed by Republicans in the Senate. It would attempt to speed up the processing of illegal immigrants, by adding more judges to examine the cases, and create facilities that could hold parents and children together while their case is adjudicated.

“The goal here is to expedite the processing for these families and adjudicate them in 14 days or less,” he said. “If they meet the legal standards (of asylum), they’ll be allowed to stay. If they don’t, they’ll be returned t their home countries with their families.”

Tester signed on to a bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would prohibit children being separated from their migrant parents within 100 miles of the U.S. border, except in cases involving abuse or neglect. No Republican has signed on to the bill.

He also is behind a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would increase Border Patrol staff, provide money for more technology and fencing, and intercept drugs.