The Corner

Immigration

Will Chuck Schumer Keep Family Separation Alive?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The New York Times has published a good news/bad news report about Congressional efforts to override the Trump administration and end family separation. First, the good news — Senate Republicans are flexing their muscles:

Republican senators moved on Tuesday to defuse a political crisis by seeking passage of legislation that would swiftly bring an end to President Trump’s practice of separating children from their parents when families cross into the United States illegally.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said that “all of the members of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together,” endorsing an approach that would provide legal authority to detain parents and children together while their legal status in the country is assessed by the courts.

Asylum claims would be expedited by adding more immigration judges or allowing families to be processed before others, Republican senators said.

This sounds a lot like the Ted Cruz proposal he floated last night (minus, perhaps, the unrealistic 14 day time limit on asylum claims). While the exact language is still in the works, the outline of the legislation is promising. It’s focused on the precise problem at hand and doesn’t tie the plight of separated families to larger immigration issues — an almost sure-fire way to torpedo the bill.

So that’s encouraging, right? It’s evidence that Congress is moving to assert its constitutional authority to check the executive branch, right? Not so fast. Chuck Schumer has other ideas. Here’s our bad news:

But Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, immediately shot down the Republican approach, saying that Mr. Trump could — and should — use his executive authority, not legislation, to quickly end the family separations.

“There are so many obstacles to legislation, and when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense,” Mr. Schumer said.

Let’s hope this is simply an ill-considered, snap judgment. Let’s hope Schumer revises his remarks after giving them additional thought. Because the reasoning here is amazing. Legislation is hard, so it “makes no sense” to check the president if he won’t check himself? Did the voters of New York elect a pundit or a legislator? His job isn’t just to condemn policies he dislikes. He also has the power to act.

For the last 24 hours, Twitter has been flooded with outrageous comparisons to Nazi Germany, and heaven help the person who dares dissent from the absurd hyperbole. If the Republicans demonstrate the minimal fortitude necessary to quickly draft and advance a bill to the Senate floor, it will be interesting to read the Twitter Nazi police respond to a potential Democratic filibuster. Is Trump’s family separation policy a true emergency requiring an immediate response? Or is it a wedge issue, worth leaving in the field for weeks, months, and perhaps years while the Democrats attempt to capitalize at the ballot box?

I have a feeling that for some partisans, it’s fascism to impose the policy and fascism to try to end it — at least so long as the GOP is in charge of the process.

The next few days will be interesting indeed. If the GOP doesn’t follow through and bring a focused bill to a vote, then shame on them. If the Democrats block the bill to keep embarrassing the president, then they’ll be exposed. It will be plain that they view the kids as a tool, not a cause. The administration remains defiant. Senate Republicans are moving towards revolt. Will Schumer be the man who keeps Trump’s policy alive?

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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