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Trump says he won't sign GOP immigration bill that would stop separating families at border

Later Friday, the White House issued a statement in an effort to clarify the president's remarks, saying that he would sign the legislation.
Image: A boy and father from Honduras are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents
A child and his father from Honduras are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico Border on June 12 near Mission, Texas.John Moore / Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday he would refuse to sign a new compromise Republican immigration bill that would bar his administration from implementing its policy of separating children from their parents or legal guardian at the border.

In an interview Friday morning with "Fox and Friends," Trump said he was "looking at both" immigration proposals put forth by GOP members of the House — the compromise bill, as well as a more conservative measure.

But he added, "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

Later Friday, more than seven hours after Trump's comments, the White House clarified the president's remarks and said that he would sign the bill.

"The President fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill. In this morning's interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package. He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills," said Raj Shah, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary

In addition to curbing his administration's policy — which has faced extraordinary criticism from Republicans, Democrats and Christian conservatives — the "moderate" bill Trump referred to earlier would provide $25 billion in additional funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border and legal status for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children, including a path to citizenship. However, the bill would tie the legal status of DACA recipients to uninterrupted border security funding.

The White House had been involved behind the scenes in crafting the legislation with congressional Republicans. Stephen Miller, a White House senior adviser and Immigration hard-liner, has been working with House negotiators, briefing the conservative Republican Study Committee on Wednesday on the details of the bill.

House Republican leaders released text of the highly anticipated compromise measure Thursday afternoon to its members. The chamber is scheduled to vote on the legislation next week, in addition to a more conservative bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

The White House, in recent days, has been widely criticized for its "zero tolerance policy" to criminally prosecute people crossing the border illegally, which has resulted in the separation of children from their parents at the border.

On Friday, however, Trump said that while he "hated" that children were being separated from their parents, it was the fault of Democratic lawmakers, not himself — a false claim he has made repeatedly.

"I hate children being taken away," he told reporters on the White House lawn. "That's the Democrats."

"That's what the Democrats gave us," he said.

Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress. Current law does not prohibit separating children from their parents, and it's not a policy Democrats have pushed or can change as the minority party in Congress.

Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and when parents are charged they end up in federal prison and separated from their children.