House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump’s threatened coast-to-coast deportations of migrants “outside the circle of civilized human behavior” on Monday in remarks that underscored the gap between the two sides over immigration.
Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke after a weekend tweet in which Trump said he would give Congress two weeks to solve “the Asylum and Loopholes problems” along the border with Mexico.
“If not, Deportations start!” he tweeted.
The president had earlier warned that there would soon be a nationwide sweep aimed at “millions” of people living illegally in the U.S., including families. The sweeps were supposed to begin on Sunday, but Trump said he postponed them.
Pelosi said the threatened raids were “appalling” when she was asked about them at an immigration event Monday in Queens, N.Y.
“It is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors, splitting up families and the rest of that in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border,” she said.
That was a reference to detentions — often in harsh conditions — of people caught entering the country, including children.
She also said that in a Friday phone call to Trump in which she asked him to call off the raids, she told him, “You are scaring the children of America, not just in those families but their neighbors and their communities.”
She said that Trump didn’t tell her what he would do but told her, “Oh, I’ll let you know. Well, people broke the law.”
It is not clear exactly what he means regarding asylum and loophole changes. But Trump, who has started his 2020 re-election bid, has been trying to restrict the numbers of people being allowed to enter the U.S. after claiming asylum and impose other restrictions. He’s followed that path since he began his quest for president years ago.
Democrats and Republicans have long been unable to find middle ground on immigration that can pass Congress. It seems unlikely they will suddenly find a solution within two weeks.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois are trying to find middle-ground on immigration, but their efforts are considered an uphill battle.
Asked Monday about Trump’s two-week deadline, No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said it was “typical” of Trump. “I think that his efforts to use as pawns families who are living in this country are inappropriate,” said Hoyer, D-Md.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who is close to Senate GOP leaders, said Trump was trying to force Democrats to negotiate.
“It hasn’t worked yet, but I think it’s worth trying,” Cornyn said.
The House and Senate are expected to vote this week on separate but similar bills providing around $4.5 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants crossing the southern border.
Trump said he postponed the immigration raids “at the request of Democrats.”
But three immigration officials told The Associated Press that officials of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency were worried that officers would be endangered because details about the raids had been publicly revealed.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
AP reporter Colleen Long contributed.