Republican lawmakers are speaking out against the immigration policy that separates parents from their children at the border.
"I am asking the White House to keep families together as much as we can," Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a former pastor, told a constituent on Thursday.
Sometimes I have time to answer constituent phonecalls in my office. This time, I talked to Tim from Purcell about the separation of families at the border. I let him know that I am asking the White House to keep families together as much as we can. pic.twitter.com/8T0FRBJglD
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) June 14, 2018
Lankford told Oklahoma news station KOCO News 5 that he thinks the families should remain together.
"My preference is parents and kids stay together as much as we possibly can," said Lankford. "The difficulty is when you have an individual, whether it's an American citizen or someone who's not in the country legally that has committed a felony, it gets much tougher."
"If you have an American citizen that has committed a felony and they have a child with them at that time, they get separated as well," clarified Lankford. "Just crossing the border the first time is a misdemeanor. But multiple crossings or what's unknown, that's the harder part. So it's been difficult but that's been policy for a long time."
Lankford says he was surprised to see Sarah Huckabee Sanders quote the Bible when defending the policy in Thursday's press briefing.
"I was a little surprised to see the Biblical argument come out on that as well, clearly, God's design is for a family unit and that is the basis of our culture and our society," said Lankford.
But he says this is happening because of a policy enacted from a court ruling a while ago that's been under great dispute and has had a lot of complications.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department will criminally prosecute those crossing into the US illegally.
However, it's the administration's "no tolerance" stance toward first-time offenders and people with children that has some crying foul.
"If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child may be separated from you as required by law," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally," he continued.
The policy was in place during the Obama administration, but according to the Migration Policy Institute, Obama's team rarely prosecuted people with children or first-time offenders.
Offenders face up to six months in prison.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters Thursday he's also uncomfortable with what's happening with families at the border and he thinks a legislative fix is necessary to address the policy.
"We believe it should be addressed in immigration legislation," said Ryan.
Ryan plans to bring two different immigration bills to the House floor for a vote next week.