President Donald Trump speaks to the media Tuesday before delivering remarks to the House Republican Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
June 19 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said he had "a great meeting" with congressional Republicans on Tuesday as lawmakers sought a fix for an immigration system that has left thousands of children separated from their parents on the border.
Trump discussed at least two legislative options on immigration with Republican members of the House.
"These are laws that have been broken for many years, decades," the president said as he left the Capitol. "But we had a great meeting."
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Trump "endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration, and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal."
Earlier Tuesday, House Republicans altered a compromise bill, introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan, to include wording that ends family separation, which is part of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
"This bill requires [the Department of Homeland Security] to house families together while parents are going through criminal proceedings for the misdemeanor of first-time illegal border crossing," an unnamed source told The Hill.
Ryan's bill also offers a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who receive protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
A more conservative bill authored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., doesn't expressly call for the end to family separations, but he told NPR he favors changing the law to keep families together.
"We're hard at work on language right now to take care of this problem so that children can remain with their parents," Goodlatte said.
His bill also seeks to end family-based "chain migration," authorizes construction of a border wall, adds Border Patrol agents and creates an agricultural guest worker program.
The 293-page bill, titled "The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act," would also provide a six-year renewable status protecting anyone brought to the country illegally as a child before 2007, which is an expansion of the DACA program.
Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he would back either bill.
Tuesday afternoon, Trump addressed the issue in a speech to a small business coalition.
"We have only two policy options to respond to this massive crisis. We can either release all immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America. Or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entries," he said.
"Those are only two options: Totally open borders or criminal prosecution for lawbreaking."
Trump added he will ask Congress for a third option.
U.S. immigration officials have so far separated about 2,000 children from their parents.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to prevent separations. It would only allow children to be separated if they are being trafficked or abused.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of 75 former U.S. attorneys called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end to the practice.
The attorneys called separating migrant families "dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served."