House Speaker Paul Ryan opposes family separation policy at border


House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spoke out Thursday against the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border while blaming the policy on recent court rulings rather than the Trump administration's policy.

"We don't want kids to be separated from their parents," he said at his weekly news conference. "What's happening in the border with the separation of parents and their children is because of a court ruling that's why I think legislation is necessary."

The House is expected to vote on two Republican immigration proposals next week that deal with border security and the status of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers.

One of those bills -- a compromise measure GOP conservatives and moderates are still drafting -- is expected to include a provision prohibiting the separation of children and parents at the border.

The White House has signaled support for the effort, though it's unclear if either measure has the support to clear the House, and whether they would be considered in the Senate.

The measure has been part of the discussion around the GOP compromise legislation since last week, when Ryan mentioned it to Republicans at a closed-door immigration meeting, according to a House source.

The proposal likely clarifies the 1997 legal agreement known as the Flores settlement, which requires the government to release and not detain undocumented immigration children. In court rulings, the federal government has pointed to the settlement to justify the policy.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doubted whether Republicans could pass either immigration bill, and said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department could quickly reverse the "barbaric" policy.

"It can be changed just like that," she said, snapping her fingers.

Last week, a federal judge in California ruled that a lawsuit challenging the administration's practice brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) could proceed.

The lawsuit alleges that the administration is forcibly separating asylum-seekers from their children upon arrival.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement argued in court filings that separating migrant parents and children in immigration detention "serve the legitimate purpose of allowing the government to carry out its immigration and criminal enforcement role" and that "plaintiffs have not provided any basis to conclude that there is a due process right to family unity that prohibited the separation."

"If you don't want your child separated," Sessions said last month, "then don't bring them across the border illegally. It's not our fault someone does that."

ABC's Lauren Pearle contributed to this report.