Rep. Mark Meadows: Separation of families at border a "horrible law," should be changed

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, says current federal law that compels the separation of immigrant children from their families crossing the U.S. border is "horrible" and says there is "real bipartisan support" for changing the policy, although immigration reform remains stagnant on Capitol Hill. 

"Here's one of the interesting things, as we've been in these negotiations on trying to fix the immigration problem. This came out just the other day, and I said, 'I can't imagine that it's the law that you have to separate these individuals,'" Meadows told "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Meadows is chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of Mr. Trump's most influential allies on Capitol Hill.

He added, "Now, obviously human trafficking is a big deal. You know, how do you know that they're really the parents in a family unit? So we would have to address that, but I think conservatives and moderates, Democrats and Republicans all agree that keeping a family together is the best strategy, and it's something we need to address and will address."

New "zero-tolerance" policies toward people who enter the United States illegally have raised concerns that families are being separated while parents are prosecuted under new guidelines by the Department of Justice announced last month. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) detailed alleged mistreatment and "rampant abuse" of immigrant children in government custody in a recent report.

"We don't want to separate families, but we don't want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at an event along the U.S. border in San Diego earlier this month. "The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions. 

Meadows' comments come after President Trump tweeted on Saturday, blaming Democrats for "the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S."

Meanwhile, Meadows said that Republicans are "very close" to determining the way forward on immigration reform after Congress failed to pass a fix to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after Mr. Trump ended it.

"Making sure that those DACA recipients don't have to face deportation and that ultimately they can become citizens? Now the debate becomes over, should there be a special pathway? Should they go to the back of the line? Should they go to the front of the line? And obviously those are things that we have to negotiate on," said Meadows.

He added, "I think that even in some of the more conservative bills that have been talked about, there is the ability to become citizens. And so, that's the narrative that's not really out there and so it's important that we look at all of that. The most important thing is to secure our southern border so that we don't have to deal with this problem a decade from now two decades from now. And I think that's -- we're well on our way to doing that."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital