Calling the situation involving migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border “a real mess,” Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Friday he opposes separating parents and their children but backs returning those not eligible for settlement in this country to their home nations more quickly.
The number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. has grown significantly in recent years, Johnson said during a stop in Eau Claire, and will continue to do so unless those who don’t qualify to be here are returned home more rapidly than currently occurs.
“People want to come to America ... but we need to control it,” said Johnson, an Oshkosh businessman. “We have to enforce our laws.”
To speed up hearings for those seeking to resettle here, Johnson said he would hire more administrative law judges. He said he does not know how children will be reunited with their parents.
Johnson’s comments came two days after President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly reversed his previous stance and halted his administra-tion’s policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border.
That decision followed an uproar regarding the controversial policy and came after Trump had wrongly said his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision. Federal officials continue to determine how to reunite the more than 2,300 children taken from their parents at the border.
“We need to keep those families together,” Johnson said.
On Wednesday Trump said he wanted Congress to pass a more comprehensive immigration bill. However, on Friday the president urged Republican lawmakers to drop their efforts to pass comprehensive immigration legislation until after the November elections, sending mixed signals to his party as the border crisis continues.
“Hopefully we can find a resolution to this situation sooner than later,” Johnson said.
Congress should play a stronger advisory role in determining U.S. trade tariff policies, Johnson said, action that would help prevent the “saber rattling” approach Trump has taken with China and longtime trade allies of this country.
Implementing tariffs on imported items from those nations could lead to job losses for American workers, Johnson said, and could slow a growing U.S. economy.
“I am highly concerned,” he said when asked about Trump’s strident insistence on implementing tariffs on goods imported from China and other nations, including such longtime U.S. trade allies as European nations and Canada. “I don’t disagree with what the president is trying to accomplish ... but I would probably go about it in a different way.”
Johnson is one of 13 legislators who co-sponsored a bipartisan bill by U.S. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee that would have allowed the Senate to accept or reject tariffs when the president approves them as a matter of national security. The measure failed to come up for vote earlier this month.
Johnson supports bringing that bill back for a vote. But first, he said, Trump must finalize trade deals and should temper his position with traditional trade allies.
On Friday Trump threatened a 20 percent tariff on cars imported from the European Union unless those nations remove import duties and other barriers to U.S. goods. European Union leaders warned that action could endanger $300 billion in commerce.
Trump’s most recent action against the European auto industry threatens to boost a trade war he already sparked with China. The U.S. has pledged to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods on July 6. China vowed to retaliate in the same amount of U.S. imports.
Johnson said he backs strong action against China but Trump should present a united front with his allies against that nation to prompt “more fair” trade agreements.