WASHINGTON — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that an “unserious Congress” is failing to help stem the surge of immigrants seeking entry into the U.S. at the southern border and defended President Donald Trump against criticism that his rhetoric has only contributed to the problem.
Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Conway said Congress should spend less time reacting to “every single Donald Trump tweet” and work on legislation to prevent trafficking, give the administration more flexibility when it comes to detaining children and families for longer periods and streamlining asylum claims.
“We have an unserious Congress that is not coming to the table,” she said.
“The Republicans failed to do their job when they were in charge, no doubt. And the Democrats now are failing to come together in the House.”
Congress has raised concerns in recent days about the president’s reshuffling of the Department of Homeland Security leadership, which has led to the resignations of several key officials who deal with immigration issues.
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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned last week under pressure from Trump after disagreements with the White House over border policy, as did the acting deputy Homeland Secretary Claire Grady, who had been next in the agency’s line of succession. That paved the way for Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, Trump’s preferred acting DHS head, to assume temporary control of the agency.
The president has increasingly focused his attention on the situation at the border and has also blamed Democrats on Twitter for a failure to stop the flow of illegal border crossings.
This week, he declared he’s “giving strong consideration” to sending undocumented immigrants in federal detention to so-called sanctuary cities, framing the plan as a way to force Democrats to make good on their pro-immigration rhetoric.
"They say we have open arms, they're always saying they have open arms, let's see if they have open arms,” Trump said.
Conway said it was a cooperative proposal, not a threat.
“It wasn’t a brow-beat, it was taken that way,” she said, adding that mayors can reach out to the White House if they want to help by temporarily taking in undocumented immigrants.
Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., who is running for president, responded to the idea in a separate appearance on “Meet the Press,” calling it a threat that won’t work because cities will open their arms to undocumented immigrants.
“This is yet another act of bombastic chaos that’s simply not going to work for this ineffective president,” he said.
“You can’t threaten somebody with something they aren’t afraid of and we are not afraid of diversity in the state of Washington.”