Rep. John Curtis had a message for President Trump and other administration officials about their policy separating families as they attempt to cross the southern border into the United States.
“It was really important to me that I somehow deliver a personal message to the president about how Utah feels about this issue,” he said. Curtis was part of a meeting between President Trump and House Republicans on Tuesday night to discuss the situation on the border.
“I sought out (chief of staff) John Kelly and told him that ‘Utah is all about families.’ Then I had the opportunity to seek out (Homeland Security Secretary) Kirsten Nielsen and look her in the eyes and say, ‘It’s all about families, and it’s an important issue for us,'” says Curtis.
Curtis said he was also lucky enough to get close to President Trump following the meeting and deliver the same message.
“By luck, I got myself positioned to look the president in the eyes and deliver the same message. I don’t know that it’s going to change the world, but it was important for me to convey that to the president,” says Curtis.
Trump huddled with House Republicans on Tuesday evening but reportedly did not give them any guidance on how to address the growing immigration problem. The administration’s policy of separating families, putting children in detention centers away from their parents, has led to widespread uproar and condemnation.
“He said it was important that we act to fix the immigration crisis and give him the tools to change what is happening at the border with separating families,” says Curtis. “But, he didn’t give us a lot of guidance on how to do that.”
Curtis tells UtahPolicy.com that he expressed support for both of the immigration measures the House is set to vote on this month. One bill would provide $25 billion for President Trump’s border wall while offering a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally by their parents. The bill also would stop family separations.
The other bill under consideration is more hardline. It does not offer protections for the so-called “dreamers.”
Curtis says he believes Congress should take a leading role in finding a solution to the problems plaguing the nation’s immigration system.
“I think it’s right to put a lot of this burden on Congress. We’re the ones who have not acted for years. But, I think it also is true that policies from the administration over the last few weeks have escalated the problem. If we’re going to clean it all up, Congress needs to act. The heart of the problem is that Congress has not acted on this,” says Curtis.
But, can Congress find a solution? Curtis says he’s hopeful but knows significant roadblocks exist.
“I will tell you from my perspective, there is a strong will to do something. But, I also hear comments that discouraged me, that it’s a winner take all philosophy. If they’re not going to win it all, then they’re not going to be at the table. I’m hoping people can see this for what it is, a chance to make substantial progress.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch has joined with a group of Republican Senators who are asking the Trump administration to pause the family separation policy until Congress can come up with a fix. The Senate is considering legislation that would keep families together until their immigration status is determined.