First lady visits migrant children housed in Texas

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The fact that leadership is moving forward with votes on the bills they know are likely to fail rather than to continue working to build support suggests they're not confident they would be able to refine either measure to a passable product.

The votes come after President Donald Trump's reversal on family separations at the US and Mexico Border, which was something he touched on at Wednesday night's rally in Duluth.

Moderate Republicans forced the immigration debate to the fore by threatening to use a rare procedure to demand a vote.

The news came as lawmakers were scrambling to find the votes and answer an onslaught of rank-and-file member questions about what the compromise legislation does.

In a tweet that seemed to undermine House leaders' efforts to round up votes, he questioned the goal of their legislation by suggesting it was doomed in the Senate anyway.

The compromise bill would earmark $23 billion for construction of a border wall, a priority for Trump, and make steep cuts to legal immigration programs, a potential poison pill for Democrats.

They called for the immediate reunification of immigrant children with their families.

In recent weeks the number of migrants arrested along the Mexico border has declined slightly, according to the latest enforcement data.

Trump had embraced a hardline "zero-tolerance policy" at the border, only to back down after reports that the approach resulted in 2,300 children detained separately from their families.

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If the administration wants to detain migrant families together indefinitely while their cases churn through the legal system, it will need Congress or the courts to change the existing rules.

"As specified in the order, families will not be detained together when doing so would pose a risk to the child's welfare".

FILE - In this June 18, 2018 file photo, Akemi Vargas, 8, cries as she talks about being separated from her father during an immigration family separation protest in front of the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District Court building in Phoenix. She was told the children there, most of whom are between the ages of 12 and 17, are usually "distraught" when they first enter.

If the Flores ruling is not reversed, immigration officers will have to separate the children from their families again.

The unannounced visit by the first lady, who was also to travel to a border patrol processing center, came a day after President Donald Trump - in a stunning about-face - moved to end the practice of splitting immigrant families.

The meeting comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill are moving to vote on two immigration bills aiming to provide a legislative fix to the nation's existing issues at the US border.

Trump last week upended Republican efforts to negotiate the compromise bill, saying he would not support it. Hours after throwing the House GOP caucus into turmoil, the White House issued a statement saying, in effect, that the president had been confused. None of the White House messaging seemed to be helping.

The House defeated the measure by a vote of 231-193 as a group of Republicans joined Democrats to sink the plan.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Families seeking asylum meet with US CBP officials at the border Is there a time limit on detentions?

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