WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on a measure to keep families together when they are apprehended trying to illegally enter the United States along the border with Mexico, but its fate remains uncertain.
The Republican majority in the House, unable to reach a consensus, has all but abandoned an attempt to overhaul U.S. immigration policies. The legislation could be defeated, following last week's failed attempt at passing tougher immigration restrictions.
But Republicans also are working on narrower legislation to put into law President Donald Trump's decision last week ending the separation of migrant children from their parents while they await court hearings on their claims for asylum in the U.S.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We have made it extremely clear we want to keep families together and we want to secure the border and enforce our laws. We should be able to do all of those and that is the legislation we are supporting and proposing.”
Trump told lawmakers at the White House he wants more funding for a wall along the border with Mexico, beyond the $1.6 billion already allocated, “so we can finish it quickly” to thwart more illegal migration.
The United States says it has 2,047 migrant children in its custody who were split from their parents as they illegally entered the country along its southern border, with the youths being sent to shelters in far-flung states and their parents detained while awaiting immigration hearings. The government is trying to reunite the parents with their children, but has linked up only six children with their parents in the first days of the effort.
Most of the migrants stopped by U.S. border agents have trekked for weeks from violence-ravaged Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador through Mexico to reach the United States, with the immigrants looking for better economic fortunes even as Trump has adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy against their illegal entry into the country.
The White House announced that Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen will discuss the immigration crisis Thursday in Guatemala with top officials from the three Central American countries.
The top U.S. border enforcement official acknowledged Monday authorities are unable to carry out the ban on illegal migrants entering the country because it does not have enough beds to keep the families together while the parents are prosecuted.
WATCH: Immigration vote
?Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters in Texas he stopped sending cases of parents charged with illegally entering the country to prosecutors after Trump signed an executive order last week to stop the separation of migrant parents and children.
McAleenan insisted the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy remains in effect, despite the current challenges, and said he is working on a plan to resume prosecutions.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the military would help to house migrants at military bases, including two in Texas.
Mattis told reporters during a trip to Alaska Monday the military would provide logistics support and would not get into the “political aspect” of the situation. He said the U.S. military has a long history of providing logistical support to people affected by natural disasters or “escaping tyranny.”
Trump used a political rally Monday night in South Carolina to portray himself as tough when it comes to security.
“We’re defending our borders because if you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country,” he said. “Democrats want open borders and they don’t mind crime.”
Earlier in the day, Trump assailed judicial review for illegal border crossers, contending that the migrants entering the country illegally ought to be immediately sent back to their homelands without a court review, a proposal the American Civil Liberties Union branded as unconstitutional.
“We want a system where when people come in illegally, they have to go,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We want strong borders and we want no crime.”