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Republicans To Vote On Immigration


Political support for the zero-tolerance policy appeared to be shifting. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis has been following some developments in Congress. Hi there, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS: How are you?

INSKEEP: What did Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, say about this?

DAVIS: There has never been much support for the zero-tolerance policy in Congress, although they've been quiet about it. House Speaker Paul Ryan lent his voice to that this week, saying he does not support it. And Republicans are now including, in a broader immigration package, provisions that would essentially end the separation of families at the border. It would require children to stay with their parents. The question is, can Congress pass that bill? And that is still very much in doubt.

INSKEEP: Oh, because there's been reluctance even to vote up to now on any immigration measure in the House of Representatives. And now there are - what? - two different measures that they've agreed to vote on and one of them would fix this?

DAVIS: Exactly. There's - and the one that would fix it is called the compromise measure. It is seen as the one that's supported by leadership - by the Trump administration even. The question is, does it get bogged down in these other intractable immigration debates? I don't actually think that there are many Republicans on Capitol Hill - or certainly not the majority - that support the zero-tolerance policy.

Even conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have said that they consider it bad policy, that they want to change it. It is consistent that the Trump administration has taken tougher immigration positions as almost a way to prod Congress into action on immigration. I don't know if it will work this time, but that's certainly one of their intents.

INSKEEP: Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has certainly been hearing the criticism on this, including from people who would normally be seen as supporters of the Trump administration. In a speech yesterday in Indiana, he said he wanted to answer some concerns raised by our church friends, as he said, and he quoted the Bible back at them. Let's listen.


JEFF SESSIONS: I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.

INSKEEP: Sue Davis, what is the criticism - the political criticism that he's answering there?

DAVIS: Well, there is an increasing amount of pressure from religious communities on this issue. The U.S. Conference of Bishops, which is a Catholic organization, the Southern Baptist Convention, top evangelical leaders have all come out this week strongly, strongly condemning what's happening at the border. And I think that is what he's responding to. And also, I think that their position is another one of these factors that is prompting lawmakers like Paul Ryan to recognize that this is not a very palatable issue and that people are going to want to see some action done on this. I would say that Democrats have said they don't need to pass a law, Donald Trump just needs to change his mind.

INSKEEP: Change the policy...

DAVIS: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...As other presidents had done. Susan, thanks very much.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Susan Davis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.