The Trump administration’s policy of separating parents and children who cross the border without legal permission has become a divisive issue across the United States and in Congress.
The policy spurred U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, to demand Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions "take immediate action to end the practice" that's divided nearly 2,000 families since April. There's also a Senate bill, known as the Keep Families Together Act, that would ban the separation tactic and has only Democratic backing.
The uproar also comes during the week of a planned vote on two immigration bills in the U.S. House, including a so-called compromise measure that would end the forced separation, as well as provide $25 billion to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and open a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or the DACA students also known as DREAMers.
Also Monday, the governors of Massachusetts and Colorado indicated they didn’t want state resources, such as National Guard troops, to be used for the separation policy.
Here’s where the area’s U.S. senators and representatives stand, in their own words, as well as the response from the governors’ offices:
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democrat
“The outrageous notion that children must be ripped from their families to secure the border is as false as it is cruel,” she said in a statement. “As the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will be working to stop the Administration’s misguided policy. The idea that this policy is being used for deterrence and Congressional leverage is offensive. I need answers from (Department of Homeland Security) concerning the care of these children and their failure to even reunite children before they fly their parents out of the country.”
She also said she supports the Keep Families Together Act that’s been introduced in the Senate.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican
“We clearly have a border security problem," Blunt said in a statement. "I agree with Mrs. (Laura) Bush and Mrs. (Melania) Trump that separating families does not meet the standard of who we are as a country. Strengthening our border security and upholding our laws in a manner consistent with our values will help facilitate progress toward addressing all aspects of our broken immigration system.”
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat
“The laws have not changed and this wasn't happening at this scale at least until (Donald) Trump and Sessions made it happen,” Cleaver told KCUR.
“What is causing children to be taken from parents is this very deliberate choice, and it is this choice to criminally prosecute all asylum seekers and I just don’t understand why we are doing this to parents. We are separating families from their mothers and fathers. History is going to judge us terribly for this, and this is going to match what we did in World War II with the internment camps.”
Cleaver also told KCUR that he plans to vote against both immigration bills in the House, saying the chances either would get through the Senate “never existed,” and that he believes “this is perhaps the most painful period for me since I’ve been in the elected office since 1980.”
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Republican
"This is a difficult issue and the Congresswoman is aware of it," a statement from her office said. "The House is scheduled to take up two important pieces of immigration legislation this week that addresses this issue as well as provides a DACA solution and increased funding to secure our borders. The Congresswoman is a strong supporter of legal immigration and hopes the Congress will come together and move a solution forward."
Didn’t immediately respond to request for comment
Gov. Mike Parson, Republican
Rep. Sam Graves, Republican
Sen. Pat Roberts, Republican
"While I firmly support enforcing our immigration laws, I am against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration. My concern, first and foremost, is the protection of the children," he told KCUR in a statement.
Sen. Jerry Moran, Republican
"Our immigration system is broken. This has become more evident in the last week when children are being forcibly separated from their parents," Moran tweeted Tuesday morning. I oppose this policy and am working with my Senate colleagues and administration officials to bring the current circumstances to and end.
"Our country must make the well-being of these children a priority. We can find appropriate ways to secure our borders and deter illegal immigration in a moral way that honors our values as Americans."
Rep. Kevin Yoder, Republican (excerpts from letter sent Monday to Sessions)
"Separating children from their families at the border is a policy many of my constituents and the American people in both political parties oppose. As Congress pursues legislation to address this issue this week, an interim solution is needed. I ask that you take immediate action to end the practice of separating children from families at the border.
As we know, there is an appropriate way to come to the United States and seek asylum that does not involve crossing the border illegally. Families who enter the border at a port of entry have their paperwork administered and are allowed to stay together as their case is adjudicated. Yet, many individuals continue to cross our border illegally, and addressing that reality is an important charge for your office.
"However, the remedy of immediately removing children from their parents is too harsh a penalty, especially given the dangerous circumstances some of these families are fleeing. In these circumstances, and as long as a unified family would not present any immediate danger to the children, separating families should not occur. It is my understanding the Administration is using this practice to deter further illegal entry. ...
"The House of Representatives is poised to act on the most wide-ranging immigration and border security legislation in more than a decade. ... I ask that all families receive just treatment under the law."
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Republican
“Congresswoman Jenkins does not support forcibly separating children and their parents and believes the practice, which is not new to this Administration but has increased in volume under it, has gone on long enough,” according to a statement from her office.
“This issue further highlights the urgent need to pass immigration reform that strengthens border security, transitions to a merit based immigration system and puts an end to this awful policy. The compromise immigration bill that will be considered later this week in the House does exactly that and the Congresswoman urges the swift passing of this compromise legislation so we can solve this issue once and for all.”
Rep. Ron Estes, Republican
He “does not want to see families separated whenever possible and believes that what’s happening on our southern border is indicative of our broken immigration system and the larger need for border security. Separations at the border have occurred under previous administrations and reports have demonstrated they often occur in an effort to stop human trafficking," his office said in a statement.
“Ultimately, Democrats need to work with Republicans in Congress and stop opposing common-sense border security provisions. Rep. Estes is a cosponsor of immigration reform legislation by (GOP Texas) Rep. (Bob) Goodlatte and is currently reviewing other proposals, supporting efforts in Congress to strengthen our border security, end chain migration, build a wall on the border where it makes sense based on terrain and population and provide stability to DACA recipients,” the statement said.
Rep. Roger Marshall, Republican
"I think separation is terrible," he told the Hutchinson News. "The whole situation is terrible."
Gov. Jeff Colyer, Republican
His office said it would provide a statement later Monday; none was offered by Tuesday morning.
Sophia Tulp is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_tulp.