Iowa Leaders Call For An End To Separation Of Migrant Families

Jun 19, 2018

Iowa’s governor and senior U.S. Senator are joining the chorus of conservatives criticizing President Trump’s policy of separating migrant families at the border. 

Republican Senator Charles Grassley said he wants to see an end to the practice of separating migrant children from their families.

"I don’t think we should have family separation. And we don’t need to have it," Grassley said, speaking to reporters Tuesday.

Grassley is not the only high-profile conservative speaking out.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds also said children shouldn't be separated from their families.

"It's just horrific that children are being used as a pawn in this situation," Reynolds said to reporters Tuesday.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, chair of the Iowa Republican Party Jeff Kaufmann, and the leader of an Iowa-based Christian non-profit Bob Vander Plaats are among those lambasting the Trump administration's policy, each calling the practice "cruel".

The effort stems from the policy of "zero tolerance" towards migrants who cross the U.S. border illegally, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April.

Under the changes, the Trump administration hopes to criminally prosecute nearly every adult who is caught trying to illegally enter the country, as opposed to pursuing civil charges in an immigration court. Critics have said the separation of children and families is a product of this criminal prosecution, because kids can't be held in federal jails while their parents await trial. 

But the Trump administration and Grassley have said the practice is instead tied to a court ruling known as Flores v. Reno, which limits the amount of time children and families can be detained. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) are each pushing different plans to address the family separation policy, which Grassley hopes will overturn the Flores agreement.

"I want the Flores agreement repealed so we don't have family separation," Grassley said. "So doing away with the agreement, which is what these bills do, will get the families back together, and then you don't have a problem."

But NPR and other media organizations have reported that neither the Flores ruling nor other laws require family separation and instead the president has the power to reverse the policy that his administration put in place.

Asked if President Trump should end the policy, Gov. Reynolds said it's not a partisan issue and "we need everybody working on this."

"So my request would be that Congress gets back and gets something done this week and we stop what's going on," Reynolds said. 

She also said she has not been asked to send the Iowa National Guard to the border for immigration enforcement, and if asked, she would consider what was being requested of the Iowa National Guard before responding. Some governors have canceled National Guard involvement at the border because of the family separations. 

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Grassley did not say if the Justice Department has a responsibility to re-unite parents with their children.