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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Lisa Brown both call for end to immigrant family separation policy

In this June 13, 2018 photo, Nicole Hernandez, of the Mexican state of Guerrero, holds on to her mother as they wait with other families to request political asylum in the United States, across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The family has waited for about a week in this Mexican border city, hoping for a chance to escape widespread violence in their home state. (Gregory Bull / AP)

The presumptive candidates for Eastern Washington’s Congressional seat in November both criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating families of asylum-seekers at the U.S. border, but differed on what Congress should do about it.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers issued a statement Monday a few hours after the White House fielded repeated questions from reporters about the rationale behind the decision. The policy, first announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May, drew a rebuke from former First Lady Laura Bush in a Washington Post op-ed Monday.

“I believe that the administration should stop the practice of separating families on their own,” McMorris Rodgers said in her statement.

But, she continued, lawmakers should take up President Donald Trump’s call for sweeping immigration reform legislation.

“However, President Trump has made it clear that Congress must make a formal policy change. Congress can and should fix this by passing a law that clarifies separation shouldn’t happen when families are apprehended illegally crossing the border. That is what I am working with my colleagues in the House right now to do.”

The congresswoman pointed to legislation introduced last week by House Republican leadership as a potential path to stave off continued family separations. That legislation has been called “amnesty” by hard-line immigration groups, and House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, of California, have indicated they won’t support it.

Lisa Brown, a Democrat who is running to replace McMorris Rodgers in Congress, said in an interview Monday that the policy amounted to “a human rights crisis” and called for Congress to quickly act to stop it, regardless of other considerations.

“There’s no law requiring this to happen, however, if the Trump administration won’t end it, then Congress must end it,” she said.

Brown said she supported more targeted legislation that would end the practice of separating families specifically, citing a bill by Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat, and companion Senate legislation setting up standards for housing those detained at the border on suspicion of entering the country illegally.

Brown also said Congress shouldn’t let concerns over a potential veto by Trump stop them from enacting policy.