What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Border security and legal asylum process not mutually inconsistent, Rep. Lance says

Outrage over separated immigrant families boiled over into a new week, while President Trump said on Sunday that the U.S. should immediately deport immigrants who cross the border illegally without legal proceedings. Yamiche Alcindor reports, then Judy Woodruff talks with Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., about the prospect of immigration legislation to address the separations, DACA and border security.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Advocates for separated migrant families here in the U.S. are keeping the heat on the Trump administration. But the president and his lieutenants are turning their attention to speeding up deportations.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • Protesters:

    No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, in the border city of McAllen, Texas, outrage over separating families boiled over into a new week.

  • Protester:

    Free those kids! Free those kids!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And, in Reno, Nevada, hundreds of miles north of the border, this demonstration was to protest Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It was his zero tolerance policy of prosecuting migrants for illegal entry that ignited the storm over family separations.

  • Jeff Sessions:

    The president has made clear we are going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally. We are going to do everything in our power, however, to avoid separating families.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump ordered an end to the separations last week, and, over the weekend, the Department of Homeland Security claimed progress. It said, so far, it has reunited more than 500 children with parents who'd been separated from under the zero tolerance policy.

    It said the Department of Health and Human Services was working to reunite another 2,000 or so separated children in its custody. And DHS said it was making information available to help detained adult migrants get in touch with their children.

    News reports, however, have underlined how difficult it will be. In Washington today, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said the president's executive order didn't provide much help. Nelson recently visited a Florida shelter housing separated children.

  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.:

    The executive order is a sham. It was an attempt to divert attention. The executive order doesn't address the 2,300 children that were separated from their families.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president has now turned his focus on the legal process for those crossing the border illegally. Yesterday, he said, "When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came."

    He followed up today during a sit-down with King Abdullah of Jordan.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We want a system where, when people come in illegally, they have to go out, and a nice simple system that works.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There was this, too, from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, briefing news reports for the first time in a week.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    Just because you don't see a judge doesn't mean you aren't receiving due process.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In the meantime, the administration is edging closer to using military bases to house detained migrants. Defense Secretary James Mattis today named the two bases, Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base, both in Texas.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn now to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue now for a look at the immigration debate from Capitol Hill.

    I'm joined by Republican Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey.

    Congressman Lance, thank you very much for joining us.

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This — the compromise bill that the Republican House leadership has put together, I call it a compromise. It's a cross between what the leadership and Republican moderates have wanted.

    First of all, are you for it? And, second of all, do you think it's going to pass?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I am for it. I didn't vote for the Goodlatte. I was one of 40 Republicans — 41 Republicans not to vote for the Goodlatte bill.

    And, therefore, I hope that this bill passes. But only time will tell this week, Judy, whether this bill will pass.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is in the bill that you think makes the difference?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    The original bill didn't contain a path to citizenship for dreamers, and this bill does. And I think that is a significant difference.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's my understanding that this bill also has language that undoes the current legal language that basically — that says that children cannot be held in detention with their parents, that they have to be separated, and that this bill would say, essentially, that those children can be held with their parents, but indefinitely, that there is no longer a 20-day limit on that.

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I say we're holding children for no more than 20 days, in other words, the Flores agreement — and I think that it is not in the best interest of the nation to hold children longer than 20 days.

    And I also think, Judy, that children should be with their parents. And I am a co-sponsor of another piece of legislation that does that.

    And also, Judy, I think we have to increase the number of immigration judges. And, as you know, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Ted Cruz are working on that issue, in what is apparently a bipartisan capacity in the Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I want to ask you about the judges, but I first want to get clarification on this question of whether children could be held indefinitely with their parents.

    If that language is in the bill, you said you could still support it?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I'm not sure I could, if children are held indefinitely. I want children held only to 20 days.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, obviously, with their patients. But, again, it's our understanding that that is the language in the bill, that they would be held, but it would be for an indefinite period of time.

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I don't want to hold people indefinitely. I would have to look at that language. I think indefinite, the time frame is, of course, problematic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask you about the judges issue.

    The president has said, we don't need more judges. You just said — you call for there to be a doubling at least of the judges who can deal with immigration cases. Where is the compromise ground there?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    Well, I disagree with the president. I do think that we need more judges. And that is the end toward which others are working and I am working.

    And we now have about 350 judges, immigration judges, Judy, and I think we should at least double the number to 700.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it sounds like you are far away from the president on that one. He says we don't need these judges.

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    That's correct. I disagree with what the president has said. I favor due process of law. I think that due process of law is important in this area, as it is important in all areas, because some of those who are coming north are in a very challenging situation in their own country.

    And we have to see whether there needs to be asylum. That is not true of a majority, but it may be true of some. And we should be able to examine that case by case, because asylum is warranted in certain circumstances.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I'm sure you know that some people coming to the U.S. seeking asylum are being turned back. They are being told, we understand, that it is because there are just too many cases ahead of them, there is no space for them.

    Are you comfortable with the way those are being handled?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    Absolutely not.

    And that's why I favor doubling the number of judges, for reasons that you understand. I think, regarding asylum, we should have an adjudicatory proceeding for each case.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the other thing — and you just alluded to this a moment ago — the president is saying in the last 24 hours that people who come to this country without documents should be sent back to their own countries immediately. And we heard the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, double down on that today.

    Are you comfortable with that approach?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I am not comfortable with that approach. I think there should be an adjudicatory proceeding. And that is why I favor doubling the number of judges.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But not to get too much into the weeds here, there is a difference in dealing with people coming asking for legal asylum and those simply saying, I want to come in?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    Yes, yes, of course.

    There certainly are those who cross the border illegally. But, in some of the situations, not a majority, but in some, there is the question of asylum. And this country has a long tradition regarding asylum.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman, how do you — do you see this issue as helping the Republican Party or not, this debate? I know that right now you have taken some pretty clear positions. We just heard you articulate them.

    You have Republican opposition in the primary in your district in New Jersey. Your opponent, among others things, has taken a more conservative view. Are you concerned that you may be more vulnerable because you oppose the president on some of these things?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I was honored to have been renominated a couple of weeks ago. And, yes, I did have somebody to my right on this issue. And it is, of course, a challenging issue for our nation, but I'm confident my views are the views not only of the district I serve, Judy, but also of the American people.

    The American people want to secure our southern border, but they certainly want a process where there can be asylum, where that is warranted, but we have to move forward in a bipartisan capacity, Judy. And also we have to move forward recognizing that these are not mutually inconsistent.

    We can secure our southern border, but we also can have a legal process where asylum is warranted, that that can be adjudicated appropriately.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you believe this bill is going to pass this week, the compromise bill?

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    I'm not sure of that.

    The more conservative bill didn't pass. There were 41 of us on the Republican side who voted against it. I am not sure this bill is going to pass. But we have to continue to work on the issue, and we have to work on the issue now, Judy.

    We can't wait until after the November election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Which is something I know you said the president had told House members he thought would work — would work, would be preferable.

    Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey, we thank you.

  • Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.:

    Thank you very much, Judy.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest